Colour in Film: Symbolic Storytelling With Colour

Shades of Light and Color

Reading time
3 min
Published on

December 21, 2023

Blauw Films

Colour in Film

Today, I will be discussing an element as crucial to cinema as the camera lens itself: colour.
Whether it's a vibrant palette, pastel serenity, or the intentional absence as a stylistic choice, colour in cinema is filled with symbolism. If you're creating a film, this is something to pay close attention to. The colour scheme is often one of the first things our brains notice when watching a movie, influencing our expectations, mood, and the aftermath feeling. So, keep that in mind when building your film, choosing production tools, and working on scenography—details matter.

Let's dive in.

I’d like to talk about the prominence of colour red in Sergei Parajanov’s Colour of the Pomegranates and its motifs in the cinema of Pedro Almodovar.

Colour of the Pomegranates (1969) by Sergei Parajanov

Colour as Your Protagonist

Colour of the Pomegranates (1969) is one of Sergei Parajanov's most well-known films.
It's a constellation of surreal imagery deeply rooted in traditional folklore dedicated to Armenian author Sayat-Nova. The importance of colour is deliberately underlined in the title, circling back to the idea of pomegranates and the colour red as not just a stylistic choice but a cultural symbol in Armenian and Georgian folklore.

Despite the scarcity of literal pomegranates, the entire movie is soaked in red. This deliberate choice sustains a specific aura and portrays culturally significant objects such as food, costumes, and blood. The red thread runs throughout the entire work, acting as a protagonist that links personal, cultural, and abstract shots, creating consistency throughout the film.

Colour of the Promegrenates (1969) by Sergei Parajanov

Colour as Your Signature

For me, Pedro Almodovar has always been about scenography and the kitschy nature of his plots. Today, as we focus on colour, I cannot skip mentioning the red motifs delicately embedded in his movies throughout his entire career. The always red kitchens, blood, and tomatoes for Gazpacho—all stand out as signature elements.

Almodovar's movies embody a struggle between maximalism and precision, old and new, and red and white. If I had to describe his movies with one word, it would be colourful. Yet, there is one colour that is always prominent: red.

Volver (2006) by Pedro Almodóvar

From All About My Mother to Volver, the red motif persists—be it a red towel on a beach chair, red tomatoes in an extreme close-up, or a bright red kitchen. The absence of prominent red in The Skin I Live In doesn't seem accidental; it aligns with the highly sterile environment portrayed.

You might argue that red is natural and can be found anywhere in regular life. I'll ask you to look around. Do you see bright red objects that weren't intentionally placed there? Bright red is not only rare in nature but also highly symbolic. Almodovar purposefully chooses to emphasise it, making it a signature element that lingers in the viewer's memory.

All About Mother (1999) by Pedro Almodóvar


I believe colour choice is crucial for the world-building of your film.
The background details often speak louder than the main scenes and dialogues. Colour gives an aura to your movie, underlining your individuality and vision as a filmmaker. In cinema, colour transcends mere aesthetics, emerging as a pivotal narrative tool.

As we explored the realms crafted by Sergei Parajanov and Pedro Almodovar, it became evident that colour transcends mere aesthetics—it serves as a potent storyteller, a cultural carrier, and a signature element that lingers in the viewer's memory.

When planning your film, give colour the thought it deserves. Navigate the world of scenography and production tools, recognizing the narrative power of colour, and wield it with intention. In the realm of cinema, where every frame is a brushstroke on the canvas of storytelling, colour stands as a formidable and indispensable storyteller.

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