It’s very well known that our brain has a wonderful way of working when it comes to color. It could react to a certain, and specific, situation depending on the one that surrounds the person at issue the same way it could understand a feeling with an auxiliary color. Color is important to our lives. Color is everywhere.
Color is a wonderful narrative device that can carry a whole scene with emotional depth and no dialogue whatsoever. The beauty of it lies in its habilty to communicate directly with our feelings whereas our brains can fully understand the message separately.
So, it’s not suprise that color and audiovisual stories (TV and Cinema) have had, from the very beginning, an intrinsical link. With color you can transform a bubbly and happy scene into something dark and sinister, you can also communicate to the audience the frame of mind of a certain character by the color he or she is wearing in their clothes, and you can even distinguish periods of time, on a movie or TV show, with color and shades.
You could say a lot of things just by using one color. Blue can be related to sadness and melancholy the same way it could be linked with life. Yellow, on the other hand, can be attached with happiness and magic, but also with anger.
You just have to take a look into the current TV shows on air to find color narratives all over the place. Whereas Netflix’s Jessica Jones tries to mimic the film noir atmosphere we all love with dark surroundings and grey areas in its sceneries, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt paints its frames with bright and happy colors to imitate the kind of psychotropic world where all its characters live in.
In Richard LaGravanese’s nonlinear narrative film, The Last Five Years, we understand that a time jump happens -in the past and in the future- by painting all over the sad scenes with intense dark gloomy colors, and with colorful bright shades on the happy ones.
The same thing happens in Alejandro González Iñarritu’s Birdman, when the narrative is trying to tell apart the dream sequences, using yellow tones, from the reality, with blue hues, only to mix them up by the very end when the character, and the movie, can’t tell the difference between Birdman and Riggan Thomson.
Notwithstanding, in Judd Apatow’s anti-rom-com-ish Netflix show, Love, we see, in the first episode, our protagonist Gus buying online a blue rug before breaking up with her girlfriend, only to discover the next day an orange one standing on his door. Right after this, Mickey bumps into his life using an orange blouse, and, from that very moment, we see both of them wearing clothes with all the possible variations of this colors all over the season, like a colorful dance of feelings.
Something similar happens with Robin Wright’s character in House Of Cards, Claire. Whilst her wardrobe in the show consists in a wonderful variety of beautiful and elegant dresses, its colors oscillate between white and black depending on how dark or empathic she acts along each episode. So is natural to see her wearing a sober black dress while scheming a new plan with her husband to win over the white house in one scene, and using a white and delicate gown in bed with her lover in another.
There’s even an interesting internet theory that develops on the ambivalency between the constant presence of purple and yellow in How I Met Your Mother that suits very well within their narrative logic.
Color is, then, more than just a tool that could turn animated images into life. Color, as it happens with feelings an sensations, is constantly attached to our perspective and our usual way of understanding life. We translate experiences that we paint with our minds.
Color is extremely important within any audiovisual story narrative. Whether a movie or a TV show is trying to communicate the very central core of its message using a beautiful color palette or accompanying a character quest between realms with only one shade, color will always be the perfect way to do so.