Colour In Storytelling

An in-depth analysis of the use of colour in filmmaking and storytelling.


On my last post on film featuring the Video “Notes on a Scene” with Gretta Gerwig and her crew of actors she talked about ways story telling can be enhanced through different visual tools. One of these was her use of color (or colour). The colors that the characters dress in subconsciously (or consciously) can tell us who these characters are, what we should know about them, and/or even what we should associate them with as a means of helping tell the story (though it is not limited to characters)  without the filmmaker directly telling us. Please enjoy this video that talks more into depth about the power of color in film.

Also, feel free to comment below with a some of your favorite films that really make use of color! 


  1. I love this stuff! My bread and butter.

    Alright, my favorite color uses in film…

    Mentioned in the video, the different color palettes are used to distinguished different parts of the story. Every frame is a painting in this film, and the use of color plays a large part in it’s beauty and storytelling.

    The Incredibles
    This is color theory 101. In the beginning of the movie, we experience the golden age of superheroes, and the entire color scheme is made to look like ‘golden hour’. Then when the superheroes have to go into hiding the color scheme becomes desaturated, mostly grey. When Bob Parr begins to do hero work again, saturated colors are reintroduced and the palette fully opens up when his family joins him in the fight.

    Red and green is arguably the most difficult color scheme to do well (without looking like a Christmas film), but Vertigo uses it brilliantly. Red for caution. Green for envy. Red for Scott. Green for Madeline. The ways these colors interplay, switch, and even become absent throughout the film is masterclass.

    Grand Budapest Hotel
    Wes Anderson has mastered the soft pastel palette to the point where it has become his defining trait as a visual storyteller, and he uses it to great effect to define different time periods here.

    The dream within a dream within a dream sequence which lasts nearly an hour could easily have become confusing and muddled if not for color. Level 1 is a greyed out rainy city scape. Level 2 is a warm green and orange hotel. Level 3 is a stark white snow fortress. And Level 4 is a dry sand and earth tone desolate place.

    Honorable Mentions…
    The Wizard of Oz, Children of Men (or anything shot by Emanuel Lubezski) The Matrix, Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049 (or anything shot by Roger Deakins including…) O Brother Where Art Thou, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (or anything by Edgar Wright), everything Hitchcock, everything Kubrick, I need to stop. Haha

  2. Of course, only America spells it as “COLOR”. I consider these Directors as “ Visionary in color/colour ”. I would split them in two categories ,“Color used as eye candy or cautionary”. Some of the Directors overlap in both.
    “Eye Candy “ -Jean-Pierre Jeunet “Amelie”, Terry Gilliam ”Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, Dennis Villeneuve “Sicario”, Christopher Nolan “Inception”, Wes Anderson “The Budapest Hotel”, Guillermo Del Toro “Crimson Peak”, Ridley Scott “Blade Runner”, and Tim Burton “Sleepy Hollow”.
    “Cautionary” -Gaspar Noe “Irreversible”, Stanley Kubrick “Eyes Wide Shut”, Martin Scorsese “Casino”, Paul Thomas Anderson “Boogie Nights”, and David Fincher “The Game”.

  3. Personally I wish there was a better word for “eye candy”. I was going for, as you describe it
    “ extremely sweet to look at”. It’s almost when I come across a unique perfume that just grabs my attention.