Light Darkness and Colors

Light Darkness and Colors

1998, Science  -   82 Comments
Ratings: 8.71/10 from 103 users.

Using Goethe's Theory of Colors (Zur Farbenlehre) as point of departure, Light Darkness and Colors takes us on a fascinating journey through the universe of colors.

In 1704, Sir Isaac Newton published Light and Refraction, his study of the interactions between sunlight and prisms.

Newton was, as a good scientist, intent on achieving objectivity, which meant studying sunlight in isolation. He thought colors were contained solely in light, and found the spectrum he was looking for.

When he reproduced this experiment, Goethe found another, hidden set of colors missed by Newton. Goethe found the hidden colors in the boundaries between light and darkness.

He felt, as an artist, that one could not talk about light without including darkness. Calling it 'the light-darkness polarity', Goethe made this new scientific discovery using artistic methods in conjunction with science.

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Colin Bradley
7 years ago

I was drawn to this because I'm a Photographer & enjoyed it a lot, very well explained and presented, Great Work one for the archive..!

Tom Carberry
8 years ago

What a great documentary. It even has great music and a fantastic hypnotic voiced narrator. I kept wondering who played the trumpet and could hold such incredible long descending notes, and thought it sounded like Miles Davis. But Palle Mikkelborg, who composed and directed an album for Davis, played the trumpet.

Having always thought of light from the Newton perspective I learned in school, this documentary opened my eyes to other possibilities. And the way it ties light, darkness, and color into subjective human perceptions, emotions, and physical reality, makes one think about the role consciousness must play in reality. Not just human consciousness, but that surrounding and filling up everything, from amoebas to whatever we can imagine.

What about the sun's heat, not just its light? I have always wondered why the sun, if it burns super hot like a nuclear furnace, doesn't heat up the space between the planets.

Maybe because the heat only converts to heat when it hits something.

I think modern physics could learn a lot from Goethe and art in general.

10 years ago

commentators voice was too blueish.

A reply
10 years ago

A truly beautiful documentary. Too bad it wasn't in HD. The soothing voice of the narrator, the beautiful landscapes, the dazzling colours, the wonderfully moody music is mesmerizing. An insightful analysis of colour; not only in scientific explanation but also through an artists perspective.

10 years ago

Whilst this doco raises some interesting ideas and perspectives it's prime principle that darkness is a form of light itself is completely flawed. In one section they try to demonstrate both light and darkness being reflected. If this were then case then where is the darkness being projected from? Anyone can clearly observe a source of light but yet one cannot observe a source of darkness. I otherwise enjoyed this doco.

Gregory Swain
10 years ago

I could barely believe my eyes! This is exactly the topic I intended to write my MA thesis on in 1987 at UWO in London, Ontario, Canada: Goethe's critique of Newtonian optics and colour theory. Long story short, the faculty of history preferred Newton while I wanted Goethe so it was never completed. Such a beautifully succinct expose of the issue! Never imagined it might make a film, but now I can't imagine why I would've thought that!

Ashley Bauer
10 years ago

sublime peace,,,,,magenta,,,this is a wonderful doc, so well done,as an artist it is how we see the world,,,,it was so wonderful when what i have observed my whole life explained in such a clear , sublime way,,,as if i was meeting a old lover for one last fling,,,,,oh color,,light and darkness,,,,,what a dance

Luyang Han
10 years ago

Not impressed, marked as science, but telling the complete story as if we were 3 centuries before. If we are seriously talking about human perception of color, then at least starting from spectrum response of cone cells, from physiology to psychology, step by steps, everything mentioned in the doc can be explained within different scientific fields. If only with a bit knowledge within wikipedia search, all facts presented in the doc appears rather redundant nowadays.

It would be better marked as history, as it is a faithful representation of Goethe's original work, together with the myths at that time, which they are no longer now.

10 years ago

Fascinating. Why do I inherently know that light is not visible until impeded? Must be a human thing.

10 years ago

Tremendously beautiful, informative, and significant documentary, for those for whom it was made. If you have artistic inclinations, if you are prone to join, rather than to break apart, if you believe in the significance of the seer to what is seen, this is certainly one you would be likely to respond to. Whatever the case, if you screw in your best brain (the calm and open one), I feel sure it'll leave you with a very favorable impression, and plenty of food for thought.

10 years ago

I enjoyed this, however, I would have liked to have seen it in high definition. I never knew that Goethe had researched light to the extent he had. I had him pigeon holed as a poet and writer.

10 years ago

Didn't care for this one as much as I thought I would. I thought it would be more about the objective science of optics, but it was about our perceptual relationship with light. Its good, I am just not that interested in how we perceive light. I would be interested if they could explain why, why we see the complimentary colors and so forth but they aren't attempting that. They are just pointing out how we perceive light in different circumstances, something I can find out for myself. Still, I think most will like this one, regardless of my personal opinion. In other words, yes- I am recommending the doc I just said I didn't care for, odd as that may be.

10 years ago

Felt a little dated to start with, but clearly put together with good demonstrations. Recommended if you're interested in our sensory relationship to light. :)

10 years ago

Beautifully filmed and superbly narrated. 10/10