8 Colors Can Tell a Story Without Words, and These Screencaps Prove It

3 years ago

There are so many tricks filmmakers use that can manipulate our perception and make us see things the way they want us to see them. Whether it be through camera angles and movements or the actors’ makeup and costumes — there are always details we may not pay attention to but that help influence how we look at the characters and their story. And that being said, color is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to do this as well.

We at Bright Side love it when filmmakers use beautiful color palettes that aren’t only aesthetically pleasing but also have meaning. So here’s what different colors can reveal.

1. Red

Red can symbolize something positive, like love or passion. For example, in the 2013 film, Her, the main character wears red shirts, and there are also red screens and walls. Her is a romantic drama, and the color red helps tell the story of being in love without words on a subconscious level.

Red can also be a negative color, signifying anger, aggression, danger, and violence. For example, in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, red emphasizes how dire the situation is. The main character’s life is in danger, and he has to take action as fast as possible in order to escape death.

2. Yellow

Yellow can be associated with joy, happiness, and energy along with naivety and childhood. That’s why there’s so much of it in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. The main characters are children, and being in love and spending time together gives them a type of security and warmth. In his other short film, Hotel Chevalier, yellow is also used to show a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere.

Yellow is also the color of betrayal, cowardice, jealousy, and illness. In Birdman, there’s a scene where Michael Keaton’s character is having a fight with his daughter, played by Emma Stone. He calls her cynical, and she, in turn, criticizes him and calls him irrelevant. The yellow tones intensify their emotions and bitterness, and they reveal how judgmental they are.

3. Green

Green can symbolize health, healing, youth, and perseverance. It can be seen at the end of Gravity, where Sandra Bullock’s character, Ryan, emerges from the water. It also signifies new life, as if Ryan was given a second chance at life, reborn after a near-death experience.

The opposite of that can be seen in The Matrix. In this film, green, which is the color of the Matrix, is opposed to blue, the color of the real world. The tones give the world created by computers a sickly look, as if it were decaying, and it also makes us feel uneasy and in danger.

4. Blue

Blue can be a soothing, calm color, associated with faith, contentment, loyalty, harmony, trust, and truth. We can see this side of the color in the final scene of The Truman Show, where Jim Carrey’s character is going up a staircase to leave the artificial world he’s been living in. He’s surrounded by blue water and blue skies. He’s finally found out the truth and discovered a way out into the real world.

In contrast, blue has a negative connotation in the Moonrise Kingdom. Yellow represents the good in the film, and the main characters wear yellow bandanas. But there’s also an antagonist in this film, played by Tilda Swinton, and she wears a blue coat and a blue hat. Blue can show a lack of emotion and coldness.

5. Pink

Pink is the color of love, innocence, purity, and happiness. We can see this use of color in The Grand Budapest Hotel, which emphasizes the childlike romance between Zero and Agatha, as well as Agatha’s purity and willingness to help others.

Pink can also be evil in disguise. Antagonists who wear pink might want to come across as friendly and innocent in order to mask their real intentions. In reality, they are cruel and manipulative. We can see this in Mean Girls or in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, where Dolores Umbridge always wears pink, and her whole office is also pink.

6. White

White can signify purity, innocence, love, peace, and youth. But it can also mean solitude and death. For example, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2, Harry almost dies and meets Dumbledore’s spirit. The whole background and their clothes are grayish-white. There, white stands for death, and at the same time, it could be a symbol of the peace that Dumbledore has found after his death and the purity of Harry’s intentions to sacrifice himself to save others.

7. Purple

Purple is a mysterious color, often associated with the future and advanced technology. That’s why it’s often used in sci-fi films, like Blade Runner 2049, for example.

Another side of the color purple signifies cruelty and arrogance. We can see the main antagonist of The Princess and the Frog wear purple clothes, and he’s also surrounded by this color.

8. Orange

Orange can be a warm, energetic, and enthusiastic color. But it can also be lifeless, hopeless, dangerous, or even mysterious. We can see this “cold” side of the color in films like Mad Max: Fury Road, where it intensifies the apocalyptic feeling, and in Blade Runner 2049, where Las Vegas, a ghost town, is shown.

What’s your favorite film that has a color palette that pleases your eye? Are there any films that you like that also use color to tell a story?


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