The Interesting Reason Everything In Ozark Is So Blue

If watching "Ozark" on Netflix has you feeling kind of blue, there's a very good reason why that may be happening. The show deals with dark subject matter but it's also darkly lit, often bathed in blues.

This was a conscious choice on the part of the creative team. It's one that somewhat recalls Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic," which sought to differentiate its three different storylines through the use of color. The Michael Douglas segment was shot on tungsten film without a filter in an effort to give it a chilly blue vibe.

"Ozark" drew inspiration from other cinematic sources and it uses different techniques to achieve its look. In an interview with Decider, cinematographer Ben Kutchins pointed to the work of the legendary DP, Gordon Willis, on the 1971 film "Klute" as one influence on the look of "Ozark." He also named David Michod's 2010 film, "Animal Kingdom," and referred generally to the early films of David Fincher, one of which, "The Game," also stars Michael Douglas.

Kutchins has received two Emmy nominations for his work on "Ozark," and he explained how he and Jason Bateman — who not only stars but has directed numerous episodes — continued to oversee the work of other directors and cinematographers to ensure harmony in the show's visual language. He said:

"I think both Jason Bateman and I wanted to do something that was unique and unique to Ozark that created a distinct look. From the beginning we really [tried to make bold choices], and I think it stood out in the way that we tell stories, the way that we color correct the episodes, the way that we move the camera, and the way that the camera relates to the characters."

'What's Lurking in the Shadows'

As for how they achieved that look, Express notes that Kutchin has used "practical and single-source lights whenever possible" and "an in-camera cyan tilt," with episodes receiving color correction in post. The lighting was intended as a means of visually reinforcing the dark world that Bateman's character, Marty Byrde, his wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), and their two children, Charlotte and Jonah (Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner) have entered as they uproot from Chicago to Missouri and become embroiled in the drug business. Kutchin explained:

"My hope was that the audience would really like lean forward into it and be looking around the frame to see what's lurking in the shadows. I want the audience to be engaged and to draw them in. There are movies and shows where you really have to shut off your devices and shut off your brain and really have to lean in. I'm happy that Ozark is one of those."

The muted color palette of "Ozark" stands in sharp contrast to the bright pastels of its Netflix cousin, "Squid Game." Figuratively, also, in terms of narrative developments, the show's third season was its darkest yet.

Its fourth and final season brings Marty and Wendy into the lion's den of their drug boss, Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), down in Mexico. Yet they are a power couple who always seem to excel when they have their back to a corner.

At the same time, their moral compromises have led them down a dark path. Shading it blue is a subtle way of conveying their inner state as their criminal exploits lead them further away from the light of any possible redemption.