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Color Theory and Wes Anderson’s Style: Sad Characters in a Colorful World

Using bright colors to tell dark stories.

The use of color has become one of the most important elements of storytelling since the invention of technicolor (which we’ve also written about here on Metaflix, check it out!), and one of the directors most known for his use of color is Wes Anderson. 

When you think of a movie made by Wes Anderson, you probably think about his whimsical films and the colorful worlds within those films. But what’s actually pretty interesting is how easily you can associate a specific color palette to each of his films. For example, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is characterized by pinks, purples, and reds while “Moonrise Kingdom” is often associated with muted yellows and greens. Anderson’s films play out almost like a child’s storybook with colors that pop on the page (or in this case, screen), but Anderson uses color more than just for visual cohesion within his films. 

The importance of color stems from the significance of color to the human mind. Think of how films usually use color and how it makes you feel. Movies with darker content like thrillers and horror use darker color palettes and movies like children’s animation or romantic comedies have brighter, bolder tones. Anderson twists these conventional color theories by using brighter colors to showcase darker subject matter in films. Although this seems counter-intuitive, his use of color in this way creates a nice juxtaposition between the visuals and the story. This technique creates a balance that makes his films less grueling on the viewers’ psyche and allows for a unique viewing experience. Check out StudioBinder’s video essay to learn more.

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