Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1958


In this sequence, which, importantly, features many characters, Hitchcock controlled the colours much as a painter would.  Out of all the characters dining he wants our attention to fall immediately on to the woman, for whom the man has fallen totally in love, and her alone. 
To do this he filmed against the red background of the restaurant walls and clothed all of the extras in dark or sombre clothing.

Against this background a sole splash of colour automatically draws our attention when we see Kim Novak’s shimmering green dress, topped with white, highlighted from behind with her blond hair.  All the other women are brunettes, or have their hair hidden by hats, leaving her the only blond in the scene.

Later, when she offers up a view of her profile to James Stewart, in close up and from a static perspective, Hitchcock made an incredibly audacious choice – without any reason based in realism he modified the red of the back wall, which becomes more clear, brighter and then becomes more natural, as if the amorous emotions James Stewart’s character is experiencing alter the very nature of the setting itself.  The wall hangings change colour throughout the length of the shot, reflecting the character’s private, personal emotional turbulence. The red seems to palpitate.