Wes Anderson’s films are always striking pieces of art and his pallette is partly what makes his work so distinct. Here, we explore some of the director’s stylistic tendencies which, on occasion, are more subtle than others. Take, for example, Anderson’s repeated use of the colour red and yellow.
Perhaps one of the most prominent examples of how Anderson utilised the primary colours comes in The Grand Budapest Hotel, the 2014 Academy-Award winning film which ended up securing production designer Adam Stockhausen a hugely deserved Oscar. Remembering his work alongside Anderson and Anna Pinnock Stockhausen spoke with Deadline shortly after the film’s release about the process him and the filmmaker went on when deciphering what colours to use.
The Oscar-nominated Stockhausen revealed: “Wes knew that he wanted the hotel to be pink. That’s one of the fun things about working with him—he has such a strong sense of color and makes very bold, daring choices that, just left to my own devices I’m not sure I would have come up with. So, working with him is inspiring in that way. And then it’s a process—working with colours that go together, adding in tones that help balance things, figuring out what the right pinks are.”
Adding: “The funny thing is, we started with all this pink, and I think this would be true of any colour—if you use too much of it, you stop seeing it because it’s everywhere and you start taking it for granted. So, we found that we had to add in yellows and different colours to kind of cut it back so you could see it more. And it’s those kinds of things you learn as you’re going; in this case, we learned from taking a section of the walls in the hotel and painting them.”
Admittedly, the simple childlike nature of Anderson’s colour has always been an aspect that attracts the director in his bid to forge an exaggerated version of a location. Creating a form of surrealism that he now specialises, Anderson has often discussed his motivation to exaggerate the visual appearance of a scene. In an interview with the BBC in 2002 about his film The Royal Tenenbaums, the acclaimed filmmaker stated: “I am from Texas, but there were so many New York movies and novels which were among my favourites and I didn’t have an accurate idea of what New York was like. I wanted to create an exaggerated version of that imaginary New York.”
The colour choices often offer a juxtaposition to the dark nature of the stories that Anderson is telling within his films. This use of colour to signify emotion is another reason for the use of red and yellow, with red signifying pain or anger whereas yellow, in simple terms, displaying joy or happiness—a technique best displayed as the sky shifting to yellow in The Fantastic Mr. Fox when the foxes are at their most content.
Check out the wonderful Rishi Kaneria’s fascinating supercut on YouTube of Anderson’s use of the two colours which demonstrates their value in his work.