Bea Smith is locked up while awaiting trial for the attempted murder of her husband and must learn how life works in prison.”
Network: Channel 5, (Australian tv series)
– Genre: Crime, Drama
Directed by: Kevin Carlin, Steve Jodrell, Catherine Millar, Jet Wilkinson, Tori Garrett, Pino Amenta, Dee McLachlan, and Adrian Russell Wills.
Written by: Reg Watson, Lara Radulovich, Pete McTighe, John Ridley, Marcia Gardener, Adam Todd, Stuart Page, Micheal Lucas, Emma J Steele, Timothy Hobart, Lally Katz, Guila Sandler, Anthony Ellis, and Samantha Winston.
Actors: Danielle Cormack, Kate Atkinson, Celia Ireland, Shareena Clanton, Robbie Magasiva, Katrina Milosevic, Jaqueline Brennan, Nicole da Silva, Pamela Rabe, and Aaron Jeffery.
Orange is the New Black is one of the highest rated television shows in the United States. And no wonder it’s so great, because the show its based off of is astonishing! Very few people, including me, don’t know that the show is even based off of another. I’ve watched every season of Orange is the New Black, and I thought it was so amazing, through all the tears, laughs, and gasps. But then, I watched Wentworth.
Wentworth is an Australian television series that came out in May of 2013. Wentworth is the name of an all-women’s prison in Australia. The series starts out with the conviction of Bea Smith, Bea was guilty of attempting to murder her abusive husband. In the beginning of the series there is a strong focus on Bea and how she is coping with being in prison, and away from her 16-year-old daughter Debbie.
As the series progresses you begin to learn more about the other characters in the prison such as Liz and Doreen, the more kind and sweet girls who were the first to try and befriend Bea in the start of the show. Then you have the ones who run shi*t in the prison, like Franky and Jacs. After that there are women who do the dirty work for the “bosses”, these women are also known as the Hench-women, Boomer, and Maxine. Last but not least there are the women in the prison who just try to make sure they’re in line with the women who run the prison, Simmo, Tony, Sky and Kim.
In order to truly capture how corrupt the prison system is, the show not only speaks about the prisoners of Wentworth, but includes the staff as well. The officers, guards, and governors all have a large role in this television series. We have Will Jackson, prison guard, who has previous drug addiction issues. There is Vera Bennett, prison guard, still living with her elderly mother on her death bed, while suffering from hepatitis C and a crap load of anxiety issues. Then there is Joan Ferguson, governor, who plays with the relationships and emotions of the prisoners to create her own dramatic reality TV show right before her eyes. The directors go in to depth about all of the characters’ lives by creating these intertwining story plots about their past that cross over with other characters in the show.
This television show is well filmed to capture all of the emotions that can go on inside a prison cell. The most noticeable example would be the way the grey and blue lighting on almost every scene works well with the blue jumpsuits that all the women are required to wear. All of the blue and grey colors give off this vibe of depression, hopelessness, and sadness.
Something else that contrasts nicely with these blue jumpsuits is the bright red blood the prisoners get on themselves and each other. With all the violence in this show and in prisons in general, the directors of the show do a phenomenal job at making each violent scene intense with the camera angles, and focus of blood splatters on jumpsuits. The finale episode of season one, Bea Smith was considered a threat to Jacs (one of the power women), so Jacs uses her son on the outside to get some “business” taken care of. This “business” ends up affecting Bea, I would say what happened but that would just spoil it. When Bea approaches Jacs about the matter. This conversation is close up face to face, really zooming in on every detail of their facial sturctures. When Jac’s says something to upset Bea, camera goes from Bea’s face to a pen on the table and all of the sudden things go blurry and there is a pen sticking out of Jac’s neck. The angle of the camera is facing the bottom half of Jac’s face as she is smiling, laughing, and having blood spewing out of a punctured artery. Of course the camera then moves to the blood on the blue jumpsuit, the contrast of the bright red blood on the blue jumpsuit is striking giving more dramatic effect to the scene.
The one thing more visual appealing then the blood on the jumpsuit is the way Bea looks after the incident. That scene is a long scape of deep yellow green hallway, with Bea walking down in handcuffs, held by two large prison guards dressed in black. The greatest part of this scene is her big, long, flowy red hair matching the bright red blood on her white t-shirt. From this scene alone you can see that Bea is no longer that innocent-ish girl she once was, when she first arrived at Wentworth.
Speaking about that innocent girl she once was, Bea was convicted for attempt to murder, Bea stopped mid-way and decided not to go through with it. Therefore, throughout most of the first season Bea was always painted in somewhat of a pretty light. Every angle of her face on camera made her look kind, thankful, generous, and innocent. After the incident with Jac’s, the camera angles being to shift focusing on the look in her eye, showing the pain that Bea had. The colors and lightings of these scenes start to bring out Bea’s animalistic features, the audience is able to see that all of her feeling she once had, is now gone. All of that innocence, gone.
Another thing that the directors do really well was the way they captured the effects of drugs on these prisoners. Whether the drugs were sedatives or heroin, the scenes made the audience feel like they were in the same head space that the prisoner was in, or at least understand what they were going through. In the second season when Franky is getting her hands on heroin and selling it around the prison, Sky gets herself on some of the most intense heroin. The episode starts at Sky’s feet walking on the roof of the prison, the camera then moves up to her face, then zooms out to her whole body. The camera focuses on the flailing of her arms, the wind in her hair, and the shaking of her head. Sky is saying that she is “going to fly the f*ck out of here!” Through the camera direction the scene becomes really intense as the camera angle is below her and looks like she just might just fall on that concrete prison yard floor. The directors also play a lot with all of the blues in this scene, being that the sky is blue, Sky the prisoner, is wearing blue, and then this slight blue tone to all of the building structures and even the barbwire fences. Again this blue is signifying depression, death, and defeat.
Wentworth is a one of a kind show. I would recommend this show to everybody. The ways the directors have created this four season series, and more to come, is incredible. Through all of the moments of grief, moments of depression, moments of horror, moments filled of action, and moments of happiness, they are able to capture each and every feeling through the visual imagery of altering the lighting, altering color schemes, backgrounds, film directions, and use of color symbolism. This show is honestly a work of art, not only is all of the drama, action, and sorrow captivating features for audiences to grasp on to, but the way all of these aspects are put together to work with each other through color harmony and contrast is really outstanding.
Overall rating- 9
Written by Adeline Jadot