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“[Blue] is the road to infinity on which the real is changed to the imaginary…To penetrate the blue is rather like Alice passing to the other side of the looking glass. Light blue is the colour of meditation and, as it darkens naturally, it becomes the colour of dreams. Conscious thought yields little by little to the unconscious, just as the light of day gradually becomes the light of night, midnight blue.” 

In film, your colour palette establishes mood and can identify particular story beats. Sad, calm, peaceful, drunk, trustworthy, deadly, mystical – blue soaks into the most complex feelings and sensations. In astrology, the blue planet Neptune is associated with profound, hidden emotion, as much as with illusion and deception. Among the Hopi people, blue goes hand in hand with the west – and death. When used as a gateway colour in movies, it becomes a demarcation point from where a character transcends into a new state of being. 

Blue doesn’t have the directive push of red, or the distraction of yellow. It has the power to capture the extremes of physical and mental states in a haunting way. [B]lue is both the colour of the sky and of the sea, and of metaphors relating to these…Metonyms stemming from blue phenomena include once in a blue moon, used to describe very rare and unusual events[.]”

Vertigo (1956) – Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Although known for its provocative and disturbing use of green, blue plays a subtler role in Vertigo that carries Scottie’s bleak journey. A dreamy blue evening hovers over Scottie when his first episode of vertigo coincides with an officer’s death. As Gavin Elster deceives him into a false investigation, Scottie is in a blue suit. It is the colour of guilt and sometimes ignorance, but blue is also the colour of finality. The brutal end to Scottie’s vertigo comes with the loss of the woman he loves who doesn’t really exist. She is an illusion, a fantasy, and trying to keep her in the realm of reality can only lead to her death. Under a blue-tinted night, Scottie is left isolated at the top of the bell tower. The suggestion of his pose is ambiguous – he might jump, but he might also turn around, and leave safely through the black “doorway” behind him into a new understanding.

The Cell (2000) – Dir. Tarsem Singh

Like Scottie in Vertigo, The Cell’s Deane pushes into the unknown to save someone at great cost. However, she comes out the other side of her ordeal with purpose and redemption. Blue plays a positive and terrifyingly negative role in this movie. It is mainly the colour of immersion and overwhelm. It’s in the windows and the pools where Stargher is unable to control his compulsions. It smothers Deane’s face when she ventures into his mind with the help of a blue technocloth. It dominates the screen when she is completely outside of herself and present in the cold gateway between her psyche and Stargher’s. It is the initiator of peace and symbol of compassion in Deane’s Virgin Mary scene, when she submerges Stargher’s trauma into its final rest.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Dir. Michel Gondry

In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, blue exists in all of its common associations – the wintertime setting, the sadness of Joel and Clementine’s breakup (and the latter’s change in hair colour because of it) – but it also holds the melancholy of trying to hold on to the things better off forgotten. It is the colour of love and profound attachment in that sense, and in the scenes that feature great love (and love lost) between the lead characters, red is used in its traditional form to represent it, although it comes in fragmented patterns and washed-out shades. Blue is the bridge between release and holding on. The two characters never transcend into a life without each other it seems, and so blue’s power of illusion in the name of love holds strong. The repetitions in the final shot of the film suggest that Joel and Clementine simply forget each other in order to remember all over again.

Blue captures as much of the human experience as black and white do in its associations. 

Apply your unique colour palette to your next film at Raindance

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About 

Celeste Ramos is a Raindance member and writer of fiction, short film and poetry from New York City. Based in London, she studies symbology and art between watching movies.

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