Color has an important role in how we interpret what we see because of both nature and nurture. As a result, red has seen extensive use for enhancing meaning in a wide range of movies, particularly since it is such a powerful color that makes it well-suited for making bold statements.
Here are 5 movies that made important use of the color red:
There is no interpretation of American Beauty that has found universal acceptance, but it is not difficult to comprehend the meaning of the red that can be found throughout its narrative. After all, one of the most famous scenes of the movie saw Lester dreaming about the teenage object of his desires lounging in a bathtub while red rose petals shielded her form from sight, which is not exactly a subtle statement. Combined with other examples of red in American Beauty, a strong case can be made that the color serves at least in part, as a symbol of powerful but nonetheless repressed emotions such as anger, lust, and even pain.
Bram Stocker’s Dracula
Unsurprisingly, Bram Stocker’s Dracula made extensive use of the color red, though it is interesting to note that it seemed to have served two separate purposes. First, the red of Dracula’s costume, the red of Dracula’s wine, and the red of Dracula’s women serve as a blatant proclamation of his fundamentally bestial nature. Second, that red serves as a reminder that in a real sense, Dracula remains someone motivated by bright, burning, beautiful passion, thus contributing to the internal tensions that make the character that much more wonderful to watch.
Raise the Red Lantern
Red represents health, happiness, and auspiciousness in Chinese culture, so it should come as no surprise to learn that it sees frequent use at Chinese weddings. However, Raise the Red Lantern is interesting in that it uses red as a symbol for the hope of happiness rather than the realities of happiness. For example, when the master of the household favors one of his four wives, her red lanterns are lit and the rest of the household begin providing her with the best treatment possible. Unfortunately, this is not real happiness because the master changes favorites on a regular basis, thus forcing his wives into a ferocious competition without conclusion. For another example, a maid with hopes of becoming the fifth wife harbors red lanterns in her room, which is why her loss of hope coincides with the burning of the red lanterns.
The little girl in the red coat from Schindler’s List remains one of the most memorable images of modern movies for a number of reasons. For starters, her contrast with her black-and-white surroundings enabled her to stand out, which was important because as stated by Steven Spielberg, it was meant to symbolize how obvious the Holocaust was to some of the most important decision-makers in the United States who nonetheless did nothing to stop it. Furthermore, the vividness of color served as a burning reminder of all the hope, all of the happiness, and all of the other good things that were destroyed by the Nazis. Finally, it is the sight of the little girl in the red coat in a pile of other corpses that shakes Schindler to the core with a true understanding of what has been happening, thus causing his change of motive.
In The Shining, red is used to provide further meaning to the scenes in which it appears. For example, the red darts precede the first appearance of the twin ghosts, meaning that red served as something of a warning. Another example saw the brighter reds of the family contrasted with the darker reds of the father, thus serving as a visual indicator of the father’s monstrousness. In fact, the father literally dons a red jacket before attacking his family, meaning that the statement could not have been blunter.