Color Evokes Emotion Spike Lee, the director of Do the Right Thing (1989), makes sure the audience understands how the heat is affecting the characters on the day the film takes place, and to do this he uses color. To subtly express how heated, physically and metaphorically, the characters in the film are, Lee uses warm colors such as red and orange. Likewise, he rids the presence of warm colors and uses cool colors such as blue and white in order to signal to the audience that things have cooled down and the atmosphere has a more loving vibe . From beginning to end Lee makes sure that the audience is aware of the temperature outside.
The film uses the words hot and heat a countless number of times throughout the movie, but Lee also uses visuals to engage a sense that is not generally used to identify with temperature . The color red is present in the clothes that the characters wear, the buildings the characters live in and are in front of, and it is the color of numerous props in the film. For instance, the hottest location in the film, the Pizzeria, had tabletop items, small decorations on the seats and walls, and even the color of the brick oven were a very vivid red that really stood out.
The same subtle usage goes for the color orange, but in addition street lights are an orange color, and there is a eye-straining orange tint to the entire film. Lee uses these warm colors to allow the audience connect with the characters, and helps them feel the frustration the heat adds to the already riled up characters. The presence of these heated colors also help enhance the notion of heat, for this film, representing the tension amongst the different races, and the minorities towards the whites. During the climax of the film the Pizzeria is set into flames, and its heavy orange glow is reflected on the faces of Sal and his sons.
In the couple of scenes where tension is not so high, and people are not completely suffering from the heat, Lee removes the orange tint and warm colors and instead replaces them with cool tone colors such as blue and white. Specifically, in the scene where the two boys unscrew the fire hydrant and use its water to entertain and cool off the people of the neighborhood the audience will notice an absence of the orange tint and the presence of people wearing blue and white. This cooled down scene is then interrupted and upset by a white man driving a car that happens to be red.
Lee also uses the cool toned colors to show love. When the main character, Mookie, and his baby’s mother, Tina, are having an intimate moment he has her remove the clothes she has on which happen to be warm colors. Similarly, when he goes to the freezer to retrieve an ice cube his son and Tina’s mom are in there, both dressed in blue shirts. Taking away the warm colors and orange tint allows the audience to feel the same kind of sense of relief as the characters feel in theses scenes. Lee’s usage of color is to help the audience feel, on a deeper level, what the characters in the film are feeling.
Whether it be from the actual heat of the sun or the heat produced by the tension in the neighborhood and with “the man”. The most tension and hate filled moment in the film is topped off with a fire burning bright oranges and reds. Lee also made sure to allow the audience to experience more than just hate (or heat) by including scenes that did not have an orange tint or warm colors, but instead cool colors. Lee successfully appealed to the audience’s feelings through the use of colors and made sure they could connect with the characters more personably.
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