Why the use of color is important in film.

Color is one of the tools a director can play with the most. Some make good use out of it, and some don’t even mind to. But using color can bring more depth to your film, whereby it won’t be as superficial as it might seem on first look.

Recently I saw the film “Nocturnal Animals” directed by none other than the fashion designer Tom Ford. In that film, we get to meet Susan, played by Amy Adams, who receives a manuscript written by her ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal. Susan gets very invested into the story since she sees it as a revenge tale for what’s happened in her past with her ex-husband. This will lead to a film telling a story within another story. There’ll be scenes set in real life, but the majority of the film will depict events from the book. To balance this all well, you’ll need a good director behind the wheel, and you can be damn sure that Ford’s the man for that.
In Nocturnal Animal, Ford shows us that he isn’t only good at designing clothes, but also at creating really good-looking shots. He mostly did this by his carefully choosing his colors. The use of colder and warmer colors is very noticeable and it’s used to distinguish what’s taking place in the received manuscript, and what’s happening in “real life”. But it doesn’t stop there. The colder colors don’t only represent what’s happening in “real life”, but they also represent how Susan is feeling: sad and lonely. Near the end of the film, colder colors start to appear in the manuscript part, which foreshadows what’s bound to come.

Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nocturnal Animals” – 2016

Ford also used color to show emotion, without speaking. Of course the wonderful acting of the whole cast helped with that as well, but by showing for example red, you know that it might represent love or even death. Near the end of the film, we also see Susan in a green dress, which stands for envy. And by using that color for her dress, we are able to understand the open ending a bit better, whereby we don’t leave the theater confused.

Color can also be used in an artistic manner, without any real meaning behind it, which was also the case in this well-crafted film. But these moments were pretty rare in this film because behind everything that’s happening is a reason. And they try to give you that mentality right from the start of the film. That scene brilliantly sets up the theme for what’s yet to come.

Now to come back to the title of this article: why is color so important? Well, color is there to bring that extra touch to your film and have people think about it even after the credits have stopped rolling. Not only that, but it can also be used to create visually stunning shots.


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