Predictably, cinema would never have survived after 1934, if remained black and white. Definitely, black and white films remind us of the history of cinema, of a huge transformation of the world, after a picture, once, started moving; nevertheless, colors raised cinema to a new level, helping producers to express dramatic notes, intimacy, beauty of the nature, streets, people; surfaces of different materials, sunsets, blood, sea and etc. Though, this article is dedicated to the color interpretation in cinema, it does not aim to throw a shade on black and white films.
“Reality is not art, but a realist art is one that can create an integral aesthetic of reality”.
André Bazin, french film critic and co-founder of “Cahiers du Cinéma”
Colors, besides designing the atmosphere of the film, at the same moment attempting to involve the viewer into the reality of the recorded play, perform a crucial role in cinema, as they can be considered as signs and symbols, by which, the viewer can interpret the invisible plot and, perhaps, hints of the director.
THE POWER OF RED
RED. Color of power? How can we interpret this color in cinema, noticing it in little details: starting from a little leather bag, ending with red lights and letters? Apparently, psychology involves a moderate section, dedicated to colors, which involves such topics as color therapy, color affects on a mind, properties of color and etc.
In most of vertiginous films of the legendary master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, we can notice different shades of red: from juicy to bloody red. In “Dial M for Murder”, it is clearly reflected a Moss Mabry red lace dress, worn by Grace Kelly, playing a role of a married woman, who was unsuccessfully attacked on her husband’s request. The color is also depicted in the key moment, when she is being judged and suspected in the murder of the attacker: we can see flashing red lights, which create an anxious and neurotic atmosphere. Red, in this film, can be possibly interpreted as fear, impatient waiting, anxiety, terror, hatred, love and the boiling desire to prove innocence.
However, red is a frequently used color in Hitchcock’s films, to make the viewer impatient and more dived into the anxious atmosphere of his unpredictable plots.
Considering blue, our attention can be drawn to “Bonjour Tristesse” (“Hello Sadness” in English), produced by Otto Preminger in 1958. The film was based on Françoise Sagan’s novel of the same name. Cécile and Raymond — daughter and father, are depicted to enjoy their summer on the French Riviera, living in chic and indifference. Unfortunately, the spoiled nature of Cécile and the negligence of her father led to fatal consequences — their guest, wise middle-aged woman Anne, who had an unexpected romance with Raymond, committed suicide, by drowning herself in the Mediterranean sea.
Presumably, blue color in this film is connected to sea. The pure, mysterious sea, where these two spoiled characters, father and daughter, could escape from themselves, the ones they were ashore, and be alone with their thoughts, secrets and emotions. The blue color can also be interpreted as the color of relax, and even too much of relax, as daughter and father did not lead a busy life. One of the non-positive interpretations of blue, is also stubbornness, which is the main trait of Cécile, who does not obey anyone.
Although, blue is the color of peace and intelligence, in ”Bonjour Tristesse’’ it mostly implied melancholy, based on Cécile’s internal conflict and ignorance of her blue feelings.
You are inscribed in the lines on the ceiling
You are inscribed in the eyes that I love
You are not poverty absolutely
Since the poorest of lips denounce you
Ah with a smile
Love of kind bodies
Power of love
From which kindness rises
Like a bodiless monster
Sadness beautiful face.”
“Farewell Sadness”, a poem by Paul Éluard, mentioned in ”Bonjour Tristesse’’