Walter Mitty and The Power of Color

by racherickson

Recently I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty…twice. Thanks to Provo’s local dollar theatre, I was able to see the movie without breaking my bank account. I had heard great things about the movie before I went to see it, so I figured I might as well go and watch it.

I couldn’t have been happier with the decision to go see it. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you definitely should look into it. It is so worth it.

I haven’t read the story and didn’t really know much about the storyline before sitting down in the theatre. Basically the extent of my knowledge of the film was that Ben Stiller directed and starred in it, Kristen Wiig was in it, Adam Scott had a disgustingly horrible beard and the adventure had something to do with a photo negative.

The film itself has multiple themes that you can draw out of it, but I think the most prominent is something Cheryl, Wiig’s character, said, “Life is about courage and going into the unknown.” One of the ways the film does this is through the use of color. I cannot express my love for the entire production design in words but I will attempt to show you the beauty of the colors of this movie, and how it helps add so much to the theme and to the movie as a whole.

Throughout the movie, the colors and design help to exemplify the theme of becoming more adventurous. For example, in the beginning of the film, Walter Mitty is seen in his small, simple apartment. Within his apartment, the colors blue, grey and white are present.

This color palette follows the story as Mitty goes to his job and all the way up to the moment he decides to pursue Sean O’Connell. These colors portray a sense of simplicity, much like the life Walter Mitty lives before he decides to do something spontaneous. When Walter daydreams and zones out into his own world, these colors fade and his scenes are more colorful than his own life. This shows how he wants to live an exciting life, and can imagine it in his head, but he isn’t willing to step out of his simple lifestyle to go find the things that put color in his life.

Interestingly enough, Cheryl, his love interest, isn’t seen wearing the same color palette as the other characters in the film. Though most of the workers at Life magazine have the same color scheme as Walter Mitty’s apartment, she has a brighter shirt on that makes her stand out, once again showing Walter that he needs to be courageous enough to speak to her so that his life can become colorful.

Though much of the beginning of the film has a bluish color to it, everything from the setting to clothing types, when Walter lands in Greenland and is asking about renting a car, two cars are available, one red and one blue. If one were to be consistent in the color scheme and palette of the movie, one would guess he chooses the blue car, but instead, he chooses to take the red car. This signals the beginning of a new section of the story and signals Walter’s transition into his new life.

This is the first introduction of a new color. This new color, red, is found throughout the middle part of the movie. Not only Walter’s car is red, but as he continues his adventures, more red is integrated into his wardrobe; first by wearing a red sweater, which was given to him by someone on the boat and later, by wearing a red jacket while hiking the Himalayas. The “red” stage symbolizes his stepping out of his comfort zone and into a new adventure. In addition to that, he’s happier.

After Walter finds Sean O’Connell, a new color is introduced. When they both go to play a pick-up game of soccer, there is a yellow tint to the scenes, adding another color, a warmer color, to the palette.

Therefore, over the course of the movie, the color palette evolves to include the three primary colors. These stages follow the primary colors and each color adds a new tone and part of the story. This yellow is a balance between the previous blue and the newer red, and brings a sense of calmness and peace to the new setting and Walter’s life.

I just really love this movie a lot and I hope you all go and see it. It’s fantastic and visually stunning. It definitely helped me learn things and take an important lesson out of the 125 minute movie. Be adventurous, be courageous, take risks, live life, go out into the unknown because, in the end, it’ll be okay. Go find yourself, have adventures and live. 

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”