The colors of “Twilight”

October 3rd, 2011

The first installment in the “Twilight” saga is a well orchestrated and beautifully executed visual journey by the director Catherine Hardwicke. I have to admit that it was actually quite hard to narrow down the selection of stills for this entry; the color coordination and narration is very consistent throughout the entire movie, never lapsing or cutting corners, and never creating an unpleasant combination or arrangement.

Desaturated turquoise is by far the most dominant color in the movie, and it’s quite fascinating to see how it is supported by different color combinations in different scenes. Here, the support is provided by golden ochre and teal blues.

The orange truck is my favorite supporting element, appearing in  quite a few scenes. Its color is washed enough to be able to take over large parts of the screen estate without diverting too much attention away from Kristen Stewart’s character, Bella. This is not the only scene that uses parts of all three primary colors, while at the same time maintaining a balanced look. Here, it is achieved by confining the green to small elements in two corners.

And here the same truck, and the same colors, switching the roles of green and blue. The tail corner of the truck is a nice counter weight to the large swath of turquoise that frames the chestnut brown frame of Bella (hair and coat).

This is a nice exploration of the transition from sand yellow to sea green. The colors look slightly oversaturated, but not too overwhelming given an almost complete lack of reds and browns.

This is my favorite scene. It would be presumptuous to show the parking lot of a high school where all the cars look the same. Instead, the vehicles are carefully positioned around the main axis of interest. Note how the four red-burgundy cars are placed within a larger triangular shape created by the school building and Bella’s truck; this effectively confines that color spectrum to a well defined shape, all the while maintaining the viewer’s attention on her figure. The light blue car directly behind her almost blends into the pavement, while the green truck behind it seems a natural continuation of the green slope to its right. There are a few white cars, but you can hardly see them as they are obscured by other vehicles. The dark gray asphalt lot is clearly delineated by half a dozen dark gray sedans, completing the visual setup for the next event.

Chestnut brown and light blue are the main colors in this scene, completed by the dark red on the most distant supporting character.

Even though this scene is completely dominated by the blue hue, you can still see traces of the other two primary colors. Streaks of brown in both characters’ hair are slightly broken apart by the red on Edward’s lips, and the green is hinted along the outer glass wall.

A rare occurrence of sea green overtaking the turquoise. This switch is supported by the partially opened blinds on the glass wall that let in the greens of the outside vegetation.

And an even rarer occurrence of color purple. My favorite part is the blanket wrapped around Christian Serratos’ character, Angela. The dark teal is taken from the fog-hugged trees, while the light teal is taken from the overcast skies.

In an interesting twist, Bella is wearing a shirt almost identical to the one worn by the unfortunate driver that we’ve seen earlier (in the hospital scene). Note how the  two colors are mirrored in the light blue headband in her hair, as well as the shirts worn by the two guys behind her right shoulder.

Traces of purple on Bella’s bed sheets and ochre-brown furniture are a nice complement to her hair and bracelet.

In one of the more beautiful outdoor scenes, bright moss greens fight for attention amidst slate grey and cloudy blues.

Alternating shots of the characters in the same scene add pale purple from the lips bitten by the cold weather.

The orange truck is once again a main background element, this time with a great addition of orange stripes running through Bella’s patterned shirt. This is also a rare occurrence of an almost equal doses of all  three primary colors, with blue taking the lower corners and green spanning the top half.

Cool greens of the outside forest are a nice visual counterweight to neatly arranged blocks of color formed by the books behind Bella. Also note how this green sneaks into the shirt she’s wearing.

Yet another guest appearance by the color purple, this time in the masterfully arranged wall of graduation caps. Note the visual connection between the tassel of lowermost cap and the yellow elements behind Bella’s head.

One of the more vibrant scenes, with bright splashes of orange along the bottom edge, the bright yellow badge catching the sun and a somewhat garish blue shoulder patch.

Same scene, following the dialog. Note the nice framing of the characters, and an extra splash of orange from the emergency light on top of the police car.

Strong emotional attachment between Bella and her mother, played by Sarah Clarke, is highlighted not only by the same color palette, but also by dying her hair with the same chestnut streaks.

Bella’s father played by Billy Burke is seen here sleeping on his sofa. Note how his checkered shirt seems to draw from both the warm browns of the wooden panels and the deep greenish grays  of the upholstery.

The emotional warmth of the last scene removes almost all traces of cold blues, leaving only earthen colors – golden yellow of the skin, soft brown of the hair and earthen green of the background.

Cinematography: Elliot Davis
Film Editing: Nancy Richardson
Art Direction: Christopher Brown and Ian Phillips
Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
Costume Design: Wendy Chuck
Director: Catherine Hardwicke