Shot from the film “She”

Light refers to those lit­tle things that you don’t focus on and don’t think about while view­ing a pic­ture. It just takes its place along with the edit­ing, the sound­track and the details of the dif­fer­ent shots. How­ev­er, this is very impor­tant! Most direc­tors do not acci­den­tal­ly choose one or anoth­er shade for spe­cif­ic scenes, and some­times even entire films. The choice of spe­cif­ic light­ing not only affects our pas­sive per­cep­tion while watch­ing, but can also enhance one or anoth­er emo­tion of the char­ac­ters and the over­all mood of the film.

You prob­a­bly didn’t think and didn’t peer: this is the busi­ness of ana­lysts, review­ers and indus­try experts. I slight­ly opened the col­ored box to show, using the exam­ple of sev­en films, how del­i­cate work was done where the view­er takes it for grant­ed.

Frame from the film “She”

The col­or of the light in the frame great­ly affects the per­cep­tion, because it col­ors the pic­ture and affects our per­cep­tion and emo­tions that we expe­ri­ence from the frame. Noth­ing may even hap­pen on the screen, but it will be pleas­ing to the eye. That’s the point. Direc­tors, along with pho­tog­ra­phers, artists and every­one who works with visu­als, use well-estab­lished col­or com­bi­na­tions. A typ­i­cal human reac­tion to such com­bi­na­tions will be some­thing like: “I don’t know what’s the mat­ter, it’s just beau­ti­ful, nice to look at.”

It’s nice to look at — that’s the most impor­tant thing. Col­ors inter­act with each oth­er, hence the well-estab­lished com­bi­na­tions, which were invent­ed just to enhance the feel­ing of com­fort from the look, and not the dis­com­fort of some­thing miss­ing. The Swiss artist, the­o­rist and teacher Johannes Itten writes about this in his book The Art of col­or.

The col­or as such and the col­or effect coin­cide only in the case of har­mon­ic semi­tones. …>those col­ors are pleas­ant, between which there is a nat­ur­al con­nec­tion, that is, order. Com­bi­na­tions of col­ors, the impres­sions of which we are pleased, we call har­mo­nious

Johannes Itten, The Art of Col­or

If you do not delve into the the­ses writ­ten by him, then the sim­plest col­or com­bi­na­tions can be found on the cir­cu­lar col­or chart: they lie oppo­site each oth­er. Next come semi­tones, and with them more com­plex, non-stan­dard com­bi­na­tions. On the exam­ple of the select­ed films, it will be notice­able how the direc­tors use it.

Beware, spoil­ers are pos­si­ble! If you have not watched any of the films and do not want to know the details of the plot, then scroll to the next head­ing.


Wong Kar-Wai’s film sat­u­rat­ed with bright col­ors. Per­haps this was an inten­tion­al part of the plot from the very begin­ning, or maybe it just fell on hand: most of the scenes take place at night in bars, cafes, restau­rants and gam­bling estab­lish­ments, where they did not skimp on neon light­ing. Ide­al loca­tions for col­or work. How­ev­er, noth­ing sur­pris­ing, Wong Kar-wai is known for rich palette paint­ings.

The film tells the sto­ry of a girl, Eliz­a­beth, who broke up with her boyfriend. The gap takes a heavy toll on her heart and mind, as a result, she drops every­thing and goes on the road — in search of her­self, for reflec­tion and a new pic­ture before her eyes. It can be exag­ger­at­ed that all these col­ors on her way are the sat­u­ra­tion of the flow of thoughts and emo­tions, some of which she reflects in post­cards to the own­er of the cafe, whom she met before leav­ing. The true inten­tion is still known only to the direc­tor. And the work he cre­at­ed, as you know, already lives out­side the inter­pre­ta­tion of the author, inde­pen­dent­ly, and can become over­grown with con­jec­tures.

There are many shades and their com­bi­na­tions in the film, but a few of the most com­mon ones can def­i­nite­ly be dis­tin­guished. So, Wong Kar-wai uses green and yel­low, blue and yel­low, and red and green (estab­lished col­or schemes).

In one of the scenes of the film, you can see a curi­ous find of the author: a com­bi­na­tion of yel­low, orange, azure, green and lilac.

Even in scenes with nat­ur­al, warm col­or, the direc­tor resorts to col­or com­bi­na­tions to make the pic­ture even more diverse: he sets off the azure-blue sky with yel­low light that falls on the char­ac­ters through the win­dows of a cafe, car, or due to yel­low-tint­ed clothes on them­selves .


An amaz­ing film by Russ­ian direc­tor Vik­tor Shamirov. Almost the entire action of the pic­ture takes place with­in the walls of one apart­ment and on the land­ing. In a cou­ple of scenes, we also see the court­yard of the house. It would seem — the frame­work, but it seems, on the con­trary, gave the author even more oppor­tu­ni­ties to work with light.

Accord­ing to the plot, old friends meet to remem­ber the past years and, unex­pect­ed­ly, to play the truth. At the table, in dif­fer­ent rooms, on the bal­cony… mean­while, night falls on the city, and all the col­ors begin to play in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent way.

While the evening has not yet fall­en, and the plot is just unfold­ing, you can see a seem­ing­ly com­plete­ly imper­cep­ti­ble, mod­est detail. But in fact — an inter­est­ing find of the author: the clas­sic beige-azure com­bi­na­tion of col­ors lit­er­al­ly plays with new col­ors when a notice­able pur­ple spot is added to it. And to the lat­ter, the author adds a warm, green­ish-yel­low light from the win­dow. Dou­ble lev­el of col­or match­ing.

Pur­ple does not go away for good, hav­ing appeared once. Twi­light descends, gen­tly paint­ing every­thing in pur­ple tones. In one of the scenes, the author mut­ed the green on the col­or cor­rec­tion, but the col­or match did not dis­ap­pear from the eyes: green plus pur­ple.

Lat­er, when the feast spills over into the night, Shamirov reveals the whole arse­nal of work­ing with col­or, numer­ous light sources and col­or cor­rec­tion. All the night action towards the end of the film is a con­tin­u­ous work with a com­bi­na­tion of beige-yel­low and blue-azure, as well as the whole range of shades of these col­ors.


I think every­one has seen this pic­ture! Well, almost every­thing. So with­out regard to the plot — imme­di­ate­ly into the analy­sis. It can be said with cer­tain­ty thataboutMost of the entire 102 min­utes are done in cold tones. The action of the film changes between days and nights, but the dom­i­nant col­or remains blue: in the dark, it thick­ens to ink, in the light, it changes to a fad­ed azure. This fad­ed shade, espe­cial­ly at the begin­ning of the plot, is the main mood, the mood of the main char­ac­ters, their fad­ed, melan­cholic emo­tion­al back­ground.

Curi­ous are the details that the direc­tor adds in one scene or anoth­er in order to har­mo­nize the blue col­or, either mix­ing with red objects, or adding yel­low. Look at the love of detail: Bill Mur­ray’s yel­low T‑shirt is paired with Scar­lett Johansson’s pur­ple wig. The scene of the pro­tag­o­nist’s silent walk gets a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent read­ing: pur­ple makes the feel­ing of lone­li­ness and detach­ment even more melan­cholic. If the light were soft and warm, the mood would be com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent!

And of course, Sofia Cop­po­la is not the first to use a com­ple­men­tary com­bi­na­tion of green and red.


A gem of col­or work that could­n’t be missed! A cult film, remem­bered by many pre­cise­ly because of its fake, fab­u­lous, film col­or­ing. But even a beau­ti­ful fairy tale, and even with Audrey Tautou in the title role, is a del­i­cate cal­cu­la­tion and a mas­ter­ful work of the direc­tor! Work­ing on each scene to keep the col­or bal­ance in bal­ance, and the whole film — in a sin­gle style.

From the point of view of col­or, “Amelie” is an ode to yel­low, green and red, jug­gling with com­bi­na­tions of these col­ors, their inter­weav­ing. To achieve a com­fort­able visu­al per­cep­tion for the audi­ence, the direc­tor, like a cher­ry on a piece of cake, adds col­or accents where they are lack­ing. The bowls of flow­ers come into bal­ance. The reveal­ing details of this tech­nique are a red suit­case, a red inscrip­tion on the wall (there is noth­ing red in the frame, and this col­or was need­ed) and even red veg­eta­bles on the table, in the scene where Amelie is hav­ing lunch with her father.

The deep­er the analy­sis of these dots in the right places, the greater the delight from the work of the direc­tor. The world of the hero­ine Audrey Tautou is a lit­tle fab­u­lous, cute, some­where infan­tile and filled with bright lit­tle things. It seems that the author man­aged to embody these lit­tle things, as if Amelie her­self did it, includ­ing through such accents.


A riot of col­ors and mas­tery of work­ing with col­or in the frame from the very first min­utes! It is impor­tant to note: com­pared to Amelie, the pic­ture of La La Land is more restrained. In the first case, it was as if some kind of fil­ter from Insta­gram was applied to the entire screen and the sat­u­ra­tion was turned up to full, in the case of La La Land, the col­ors do not seem to be a film effect or delib­er­ate­ly dis­tort­ed, every­thing looks nat­u­ral­is­tic with rare excep­tions.

Ana­lyz­ing col­oris­tics, you can see how the direc­tor intro­duces cer­tain details into the film that play on the plane of col­or com­bi­na­tions. Details like cloth­ing, sun­set, and sign col­ors, rather than the over­all col­or grad­ing of the frame. It’s even more inter­est­ing! Not only Cop­po­la uses a com­bi­na­tion of oppo­site col­ors — red and green, La La Land also has them. With a red jack­et, the direc­tor plays with the green col­or of the chro­ma key in the plot, bal­anc­ing it. The same thing hap­pens with the red jack­et, but with the hero of Ryan Gosling against the back­drop of a flow­er­ing gar­den.

It was not for noth­ing that I made a reser­va­tion about col­or from the very begin­ning of the film: in the first scene you can see the com­bi­na­tion of red and blue again due to the bright clothes of the char­ac­ters. And this is not the only time! Shades of blue and red appear in the pic­ture quite often. What is curi­ous: only in a rare case is this obtained due to col­or cor­rec­tion of col­or sources — basi­cal­ly every­thing is built on the col­or of the cos­tumes and loca­tions.

Com­bi­na­tions of yel­low / orange with blue and green with yel­low are also found in the pic­ture. Much more inter­est­ing is the use of pur­ple! From hot pink (show­er scene) to a bare­ly notice­able, pale pur­ple when the main char­ac­ters leave the cafe on the street. Look close­ly, the shad­ow areas are tint­ed in pink­ish. But only slight­ly. To har­mo­nious­ly com­ple­ment the green facade of the cof­fee shop.


Spike Jones’ direc­to­r­i­al debut, entire­ly self-writ­ten and direct­ed (he had oth­er pic­tures before, but co-writ­ten), also fea­tur­ing one main col­or and one main char­ac­ter. The red col­or real­ly ran like a red thread through the whole sto­ry. He is the com­pan­ion of the pro­tag­o­nist, played by Joaquin Phoenix.

Red belongs to the spec­trum of warm col­ors. It is a bright, pre­ten­tious, notice­able and aggres­sive col­or. This is a film with one dom­i­nant col­or: a lone red framed by a warm col­or scheme. The film is warm in tones: sand, orange, ocher. Even Theodore him­self is fair-haired! And the rest of the char­ac­ters are almost all with blond hair.

A notice­able red in some scenes changes into salmon pink, and then the direc­tor bal­ances it with a light green tint. The very first scene of the film, which dif­fers in col­or design, deserves spe­cial atten­tion. There is no warmth, no ocher, and not even green under­tones: the hero of Joaquin Phoenix walks alone in his bright red shirt, sur­round­ed by sky­scrap­ers under the cold, elec­tric-azure hue of the city around. The col­or­ing of this scene explains both the char­ac­ter of the pro­tag­o­nist and the atmos­phere of the film — cold lone­li­ness, authen­tic­i­ty, aban­don­ment, dif­fer­ence from oth­ers.


Not at all obvi­ous, but very clev­er­ly tai­lored in terms of col­or in the frame of the film. How­ev­er, the direc­tor’s work and the script itself by Wim Wan­ders are also on top! The main fea­ture of the film is that it is three-quar­ters black and white. The col­or pic­ture only gets clos­er to the final. This move was not made by chance. More­over, this is very organ­i­cal­ly inscribed in the plot of the film, fol­low­ing which, only after falling to the ground, Damiel finds him­self in a real, col­or­ful life. A life that hap­pens every day. The sim­ple one that sur­rounds us.

The film can­not be put on a par with “Amelie” or “Blue­ber­ry Nights” in terms of col­or: here it is not that the great­est. Wan­ders del­i­cate­ly works with frames and angles, only occa­sion­al­ly, where nec­es­sary, giv­ing out notice­able com­bi­na­tions of col­ors. So, for exam­ple, you can find pur­ple and yel­low, green with red and bur­gundy wine in the com­pa­ny of turquoise blue. The direc­tor does it mas­ter­ful­ly also for the rea­son that these com­bi­na­tions are fleet­ing, mod­est and not at all strik­ing.

With such deci­sions, Wan­ders seems to add a small cher­ry on those pieces where it is not enough. Pieces of the same cake of bal­anced visu­al per­cep­tion. For plea­sure!

Like and com­ment if you would like to see the sec­ond part of this analy­sis of films by col­or com­bi­na­tions!


От Yara

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