The plot of Orson Welles's "The Magnificent Ambersons" is earthly: the fall of a wealthy family and the ruin of its spoiled scion, Georgie Amberson Minifer. But the look of the film is unearthly. It seems to take place in the afterlife, not heaven or hell, but a place extraterrestrial, the characters dead but in motion in black and white. They all experience a sexual death: Isabel Amberson in marriage to the weak Minifer; Eugene, the bold lover she refused, in resignation; her son Georgie sickeningly in thrall to his mother and she to him.
Welles's cinematographer, Stanley Cortez, created what I call the "afterlife look" by using deep focus--foreground, middle ground, and background all sharply in focus--great slashing shadows, and reverse cuts, the camera shooting from the left and right of the subject. All the while we hear Welles's voice, the narrating angel; he doesn't appear in the film.
We've heard so much about the living quality of art, the flood of green in Van Gogh, for instance, but art also gives us living death. Welles's ghosts shine, their blacks dark as graphite.