short film reviews, criticism, and occasional musing.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Color in The Deep End

The Deep End happened to be on television this weekend, and I couldn’t help but watch it for the fourth or fifth time. One thing that has fascinated me about the film since probably my second viewing is the depth of color symbolism, and how color shifts as the story progresses.

The movie opens with blue – blue is the color of the masculine sphere (quite obviously so when Margaret Hall finds herself in the unfriendly environment of the gay club), but it’s also the color of danger. Water is blue, as is everything to do with Darby Reese – his car, his clothes, and his scary eyes. As counterpoint to all this blue, Margaret and the other females in the film are surrounded by green. I like this choice, rather than a more obvious “feminine” color, as it speaks to the natural beauty of the Tahoe location, and especially how the forest seems to practically descend straight into the blue waters of the lake. The two colors coexist uneasily, and their relationship reminds me of Tilda Swinton’s androgynous beauty.

Alek Spera is the wild card. He wears black and gray, and drives a red car – the most jarring use of color when the brightest thing in the frame for the first half of the film has been Swinton’s hair. And it’s obvious that the power balance has shifted when Margaret emerges from the house late in the film wearing a bright red coat.

Simplistic as the colors themselves might be, I am fascinated by the completeness of the scheme. The level of detail that Scott McGehee and David Siegel invested in the color scheme is impressive – the youngest son of the Hall family cleans out an aquarium filled with blue rock; Paige, the only daughter, eats a green apple before going to work on her mother’s forest-green Jeep; grandfather Jack carries dangerously heavy blue bottles of spring water before collapsing from a heart attack. It’s one of the things, on top of a superb performance by Swinton and the freaky beauty of Goran Visnjic, that keeps me coming back to this film.


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