Colors and movies
Movies are all about storytelling. It is one of the most effective mediums of visual storytelling and filmmakers don’t take this for granted. Since movies are a collaborative art form including various artists, they all use various techniques to enhance their storytelling. From sound design to editing, from casting to location, filmmakers leave no stone unturned. One such thing that they use to raise the class of anecdotes is the use of colors.
Most of the directors, cinematographers, and production designers have extensive knowledge of visual arts which enables them to use appropriate colors on production design to stir up the emotions. Just like the intro theme sets the tone of the movie, color can act as an entire character in the script. It is one of the subtle ways to make a scene ring emotionally. While color palettes can establish the mood of a scene, recurring colors can hold a deeper meaning in the overall storyline.
In some cases, a character is associated with a single color throughout the story to present their traits, psychological state and emotions. A change in the color represents a transformation in the character. Colors can also denote the changes or arcs in the story. Characters that are in love might be seen enjoying their red wine sitting in a green field, looking at the light blue sky in one scene. And in the very next scene after receiving a call from the hospital about a test result might be seen sitting in a room with grey walls on a brown couch. In such a way colors can affect us even without us knowing.
Here we have come up with few colors that are frequently used in movies and what they represent. These colors when presented in the scenes along with the characters enhance the richness of the movie and bind us emotionally to the story line.
Red is the color of intense feelings. It has the ability to increase the blood pressure. The color red evokes ideas of anger, rage, love and violence. It also represents passion, desire, excitement, energy, power, aggression, danger, blood, and war. In ‘American Beauty’ (1999), red is used to denote romance and love whereas the same color in ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993) is used to show the bloodbath during the war.
Pink is the color that represents feelings of innocence, romance, charm, playfulness, soft, delicate and feminine. It evokes the idea of playfulness and tranquility in our minds. Margot Robbie who plays the trophy wife in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, is associated with pink in the movie. In a scene where her character is being playful with her husband, she wears a pink dress sitting in a room with pink walls. Almost everything in her room is pink.
Yellow represents dishonesty, happiness, fun, cowardice, summer, naive, obsession, idyllic, jealousy and madness. In a research it was said that when people are exposed to color yellow, they often tend to lose their temper. In ‘The Shining’ (1980) yellow shows the madness and insanity of Jack Nicholson’s character. While yellow in ‘Minions’ shows how happy and fun those little creatures are.
One of the most seen and used colors not just in movies but also in nature is color blue. This color usually represents masculinity, cold, technology, depression, calm, stability and melancholy. Blue elicits a calming effect on our mind. The color blue in the 2015 released movie ‘The Revenant’ is used to show the cold nature of the environment. In the animated movie ‘Inside Out’ (2015) color blue is given to sadness.
Purple is often named as the color of royalty since it is a rare one. This color in movies is generally associated with eroticism, royalty, intimacy, mysterious, cruelty, spirituality and illusory. What would do more justice to this color than Heath Ledger’s Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’. In the movie no one knows what the insane clown in a purple coat wants and why he hurts people seamlessly. Ursula in ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989) often uses deception and various sorceries to get what she wants. While Joker wears a purple coat, this mermaid in herself is of purple color.
So, colors affect us emotionally, psychologically and even physically, often without us becoming aware. Next time when you watch a movie, try to find out what each color represents in it.