Color In Film: M. Night Shyamalan

Color In Film: M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan is known for, among other things, his use of color symbolism. In his first major hit, The Sixth Sense, the color red was used to indicate a connection to the dead and forewarn that something was about to happen. This was viewer's first taste of the kind of color symbolism that would continue to saturate his work. Ever since then, viewers have been paying close attention to every reoccurring hue, theorizing of its meaning and importance in Shyamalan's films.

Below, we take a look at some of the color symbolism used in his films with the help of discussions, interviews and essays on his use of color.

The Sixth Sense


In his classic The Sixth Sense he intentionally inserted bright red objects as a symbol that something ominous was about to happen. -

His systematic use of red in The Sixth Sense to indicate some connection with the world of the dead. - Senses of Cinema








I have a very monochromatic style of making films and these are plot colours, like the bright neon colours in Unbreakable. -

He wears green like many heroes (Green Lantern, Green Arrow, The Hulk etc). Samuel L Jackson plays the purple dressed villain (Magneto, Lex Luthor, The Joker, etc). -







MNS: I didn't get to do it as much as I wanted, but there was a kind of lavender colour in Signs that represented the mother and you see that through the movie. But some scenes I cut out with that lavender, so it didn't get to float through the movie the way I wanted it to, that you would see her touches through the house represented. She was wearing that colour in the car.




The Village


Colors again play a major role, with red attracting the monsters, and yellow keeps them away -

Question: Our first question is more specifically about the Village, this comes from Andrew. It's about the choice of colours. Did you choose red simply as a bold colour and also yellow seems an unusual choice for the safe colour. Could you talk a little bit about that?


MNS: The colours came from just the straight psychology of it and it's actually the same reasons why the US government has those colours of terror and all that stuff is that there's psychological reactions to the colours. Red creates agitation, if the room was red we would be agitated and anxious and aggressive. And yellow calms us and placates us and makes us feel safe and more open to things. Those are straight psychological reactions to colours. So it's just kind of using that. And, of course, red is used a lot in danger and things like that, representing... when we see red it's usually not a great thing, except with regard to Valentines and things like that. -




Lady In The Water


The swimming pool in Lady in the Water, in several spectacular overhead shots, invokes a heart, one whose colour changes from black to more hopeful colours in harmony with the action.





The Happening


I think his message [in The Happening] has to do with the color yellow. The important scene is when Mark tells the little girl that when the ring turns yellow, it means your about to laugh. This really caught my attention. From that point on, I saw many yellow elements. The yellow elements were the things keeping them from getting infected. The main girl has a yellow bag. In the meadow the grass was yellow. The old lady's house had yellow wall paper and cabinets.


There were also a lot of little things. There were daisies in the meadow. When the showed these two women with gas masks, they had yellow candies on the table between them. The old lady at the house told Mark that she was drinking LEMON juice (it would have seemed random if you didn't thing yellow was the theme). Bees are yellow.


Yellow means you're about to laugh and yellow keeps them from dying. I think Shyamalan is trying to say laughter keeps us alive. Which is why there are some goofy scenes in this movie. Its the laughter that keeps them alive. Maybe its even about giving off good vibrations. -

Screenshots found on: Mnightfans | Neoseeker

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Showing 1 - 7 of 7 Comments
Ahh, I love him. |)
I didn't realise there was so much lavender in Signs. =/
This was fun and fascinating to see. I did a drama minor in college (a few decades ago!) and remember well being introduced to the use of color in costuming and set design to underscore relationships, moods, foreshadowing, and so on. It's still something I look for in plays and film. Shyamalan is a genius with color.
I love thinking about the psychology of colors, and it makes such a useful tool in movies and it makes it interesting for viewers. I didn't realize there was so much lavender in Signs, but I remember it now that's it's been pointed out. =) I was always enchanted by all the red in The Sixth Sense, it kinda lures you in, and the first time you watch it, you don't realize that when you see something red, it's connected with the world of the dead. Genius!
Unbreakable is by far my favorite movie on this list as well as one of my favorite movies ever. Thank you so much for making this list!
Wonderful post! I love how MNS uses color to enhance the themes and "happenings" within the story. I think it gives that dreamy feel to his films.
I love all of Shyamalans movies becuase of the color schemes... beautiful stuff :)
Did anyone else notice he used red again in the movie Devil....ok its obvious but you could tell who the devil was because the devil was the only one in the elevator the didnt have any red. Everyone that died in the movie came in contact with the color red. And the one person that survived on the elevator got rid of his red...

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