Exploring Color Symbolism in M. Night Shyamalan's Films

21 August 2023
M. Night Shyamalan, the renowned filmmaker celebrated for his ability to craft intricate narratives with unexpected twists, has left an indelible mark on cinema with his unique visual style. While his storytelling prowess is widely acknowledged, his deliberate use of color as a tool for symbolism in his films often goes unnoticed. 

In this exploration, we delve into the remarkable instances of color symbolism within M. Night Shyamalan's cinematic works, uncovering how colors seamlessly merge with his storytelling to evoke deeper emotions and themes.

Color Symbolism in "Unbreakable":

In "Unbreakable," colors take on a role far beyond mere aesthetics, becoming vessels for character development and thematic exploration. One of the most striking examples is the green raincoat worn by David Dunn, played by Bruce Willis (Twelve Monkeys). Shyamalan, in an interview with MTV, explicates that green symbolizes life and growth, mirroring David's journey from a disheartened security guard to the realization of his extraordinary abilities. The raincoat itself acts as a visual embodiment of his metamorphosis, changing from a dull color to vibrant green as he embraces his true potential.

Moreover, the interplay of colors in the film accentuates the dichotomies within the characters. David's blue security guard uniform represents his reluctance and the safety of his familiar life, while Mr. Glass' purple suit, as discussed in Shyamalan's MTV interview, speaks to his villainous nature and propensity for chaos. 

It's an homage to characters like the Joker

This juxtaposition not only highlights the central conflict of the film but also visually conveys the battle between opposing forces.

The use of Red in "The Sixth Sense"

"The Sixth Sense" introduces the color red as a powerful tool for conveying moments of intense emotion and connection to the supernatural. In a candid interview with Variety, Shyamalan elaborates on his use of red to symbolize pivotal instances where the veil between the living and the dead is thin. This color creates an immediate visual focus, inviting viewers to consider the significance of each red-infused scene.

red sixth sense

Cole's red sweater takes on a profound meaning, as Shyamalan elucidates in his commentary track for the DVD release. The color red becomes synonymous with Cole's ability to perceive ghosts, rendering his encounters more palpable and evoking empathy from the audience. This symbolism extends to the broader themes of the film, underscoring the interconnectedness of the living and the deceased. 

Look for it and you will see red everywhere, nearly every time there is a ghost or supernatural moment.

Cole and Vincent are also thematically linked as seers by each having a whisp of white hair

Color Symbolism in "Split":

In the psychological labyrinth of "Split," the color yellow becomes an essential tool for distinguishing the various personalities inhabiting Kevin's psyche. Shyamalan, in an interview with Slash Film, emphasizes how distinct colors help the audience navigate the intricate landscape of Kevin's dissociative identity disorder. 

This deliberate choice of colors, each associated with a specific personality, facilitates a deeper understanding of their distinct traits and characteristics.

The final scene's yellow lighting, as Shyamalan elucidates in an interview with Vulture, serves as a beacon of hope and transformation. The color yellow, often associated with optimism and positivity, contrasts with the darkness that had enveloped the narrative. 

Its presence underscores Kevin's evolution into his primal being and the resolution of his internal turmoil, leaving audiences with a sense of closure and renewal.

glass color use shyamalan

In the film "The Village", the use of color, particularly yellow and red, is a crucial element that contributes significantly to the film's thematic depth and visual storytelling. Yellow, represented in the film through the iconic yellow cloaks worn by the villagers, symbolizes safety and comfort. This color choice is not arbitrary; yellow often conveys warmth, light, and visibility, which aligns with the villagers' use of the cloaks as a protective measure against the unknown threats lurking in the woods. 

The color becomes a beacon of hope and a symbol of the communal effort to preserve peace and order within the village boundaries. 

In stark contrast, red, referred to as "the bad color" in the film, embodies fear, danger, and the forbidden. It is visually arresting and used to mark the entities and elements that the villagers are taught to fear and avoid. This deliberate dichotomy set up by Shyamalan not only enhances the film's suspenseful atmosphere but also serves as a metaphorical tool. 

It reflects the fundamental human tendency to categorize and react to the unknown based on imposed beliefs and constructed narratives. The interplay of these colors in "The Village" goes beyond mere aesthetic choices, becoming a narrative device that underscores the themes of fear, the unknown, and the societal constructs that govern human behavior.


M. Night Shyamalan's films, often celebrated for their narrative twists and visual style, deserve equal recognition for their masterful use of color symbolism. Through intentional choices of color, Shyamalan elevates his storytelling, adding layers of meaning and emotion that resonate deeply with audiences. His films not only entertain but also engage viewers on a profound level, inviting them to interpret and uncover the hidden symbolism within each hue. 

As his legacy endures, Shyamalan's skillful incorporation of color into his narratives remains a testament to his prowess as a visual storyteller.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

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