I recently watched 'It Follows'. I found it to be an artistic, scary, surreal film. The film starts with a drab, washed out, 80s palette. As the film continues, the color, and use of it evolves, adding another layer of narrative to the story. The writer/director behind the film, David Robert Mitchell, said that the film was inspired by a recurring dream, and this is definitely evident in the approach with color. Certain sequences also utilise darkness very well.
I’ve mentioned in previous articles that among my favorite films are 'Upstream Color' and 'Spring Breakers'. 'Upstream Color' uses a blue and yellow palette, but also varies greatly from shot to shot. This makes the film surreal and bizarre, and matches the editing style. The use of color is consistent with the story and adds another dimension to the storytelling. 'Spring Breakers' takes color to the extreme: various filters, ranging from purple, to orange, yellow, blue, and bright colors everywhere. I heard an interview with Harmony Korine, the writer/director, where he stated that he wanted the film to look like someone poured a bag of Skittles over the screen. If 'Upstream Color' is surreal, 'Spring Breakers' is ultra-super-mega surreal. The film is like a drug experience, and this is most evident in the very extreme color choices. I recently also watched 'Chungking Express'. This film has color varying wildly, and many comparisons can be made between Upstream Color and Chungking Express, including the bizarre, surreal color, quick paced editing, and certain shot compositions.
Another film that I enjoyed greatly for it’s use of color is 'Man of Steel'. While many audience members felt the color was too desaturated, I completely disagree. It’s a film not only about a supervillain who wants to kill every human on Earth, but also about a man that feels isolated, rejected, and alien. Stylistically, in terms of story, it’s a very dark film about acceptance, duty, and responsibility to those you care about. A bright and bouncy color palette wouldn’t suit the story.
Ultimately, filmmaking IS a visual medium. You can work for months on a script, talk to the actors for hours and hours, but the audience is going to see colors and shapes on a screen. Color is one of the most important aspects of a film. You should put a lot of effort into it. Sweat over it, look at magazine ads, look at paintings, look at the world. Color itself can establish a mood, or create a different meaning to the story. Film shouldn’t strive to be realistic always. It should strive to be artistic, and color is one of the most effective ways to show you’re an artist, and a filmmaker.