Colour in Vertigo

Filmmakers can use colour to trigger a subconscious emotional reaction from the audience based on the connotations that we attached to certain colours. If done right, this can have a huge symbolic impact in the film. Tough luck for anyone who’s colour blind, right? We’ve already talked in seminar about the colours tied to the characters in Vertigo,  and there’s also many YouTube videos that discuss this at length, so I’ll just recap: Madeline/Judy is green, John (Scotty) is red, and Midge is yellow.

I was curious about whether the choice of these colours meant anything, or if any colour could have represented the characters. I found there is actually a colour coded “wheel of emotions” designed by Robert Plutchik, (Ph.D in medicine, university professor, and psychologist) who has published research just on the theory of emotion.

Plutchik’s Wheel

From this, we can pair Scotty with emotions like anger and annoyance, maybe because he can’t be with Madeline. Notice how the colour green can be fear and also admiration – the two themes around Madeline/Judy as Scotty falls in love with her, but there is an air of the paranormal surrounding her when we think she might be possessed by Carlotta’s ghost. Then later he falls in love with Judy, but there is a ghostly, eerie hue to her in her uncanny resemblance to Madeline (before he finds out they are the same person). The scene when Judy emerges from the bathroom, transformed for the second time into Madeline, she is surrounded by green light. That leaves Midge, who begins the film in yellow, which represent joy and serenity. I’m not sure how much that fits with her character. But interestingly, the emotion of love fits in between the colours yellow and green, similar to how Midge loves Scotty but he’s just out of her grasp, as he loves Madeline.

The nightmare scene that Scotty has is also full of colour. The screen switches back and forth from flashing many different colours until it is only flashing red.

I can’t say how much Hitchcock intended the colour in the film to have underlying meanings, or if they line up with any points I’ve made here, but there are probably some (if not all) scenes where colour is purposeful.


Plutchik wheel picture: public domain,

Dabydeen & Identity

No matter how much we talk in seminar about the poems in Slave Song, we can’t seem to come to an agreement on what the book’s purpose actually is. Is it a political statement on colonization? An attempt to recreate an authentic account Guyanese life? Or is it purely a product of Dabydeen’s fantasy, or “work of art”?

I (obviously) can’t say I know what the answer is, but I feel it’s a mix of the three. Almost like the intent of the book changes with each different “voice” Dabydeen takes on in the poems themselves vs. in the translations and notes. He jumps around from role to role, a one-man book with first-person poems told by Guyanese women paired with Western scholarly analysis, and also Dabydeen’s own introduction and postscript commenting his work. That’s why there are so many ways to read this book; Dabydeen speaks as so many characters each giving different angles to view the book’s content from.

But why did he write it like this? To confuse us? Maybe. Like I said in seminar, I think Dabydeen was struggling with his own identity and played with the different sides of his personality in making this book. He can identify with being an educated English scholar as well as with Guyanese culture. The history of his family mixed with his own life experiences has probably left him in some state of confusion about where he fits. Perhaps the main purpose of this book was actually to act as a therapeutic exercise for Dabydeen to explore and discover how all the pieces of him fit together or even contradict each other at times. Sometimes I feel like the poems and the translations are passive aggressively fighting each other or making some comment about each other. When the translations/apparatus feel so distanced and unaffected by the cruelty of the poems, it comes across as insulting, but at the same time purposeful. Dabydeen is simultaneously trying to speak about what happened in the past through the means of his present. This is seen in the last poem, Two Cultures, as the voice of a Guyanese man tells off a young boy for “ruining” the English people’s culture, and also for not acting true to his Guyanese origin. I believe the boy in question is representative of Dabydeen as he struggles to belong in both Guyana and England. Maybe he wants to honour his heritage in the way he knows how – writing poetry(?)

Remember, this is just another possible interpretation of many. I don’t know how much of this is actually makes sense. I’d love to hear any feedback of what you guys think. Open invitation to roast me in the comments!