Color in Vertigo
Mid-term self-assessment

Dreams (other mental states)

A question from the Post-Film Writing after the re-watch of Vertigo is related to the way the filmmakers showed dreams, primarily through color, but also by using devices like animation. What are other good examples of similar devices in other films? How else have you seen filmmakers visually signify dreams or altered mental states?


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Becky Bond

One of my favorite ways that I have seen movies portray dream sequences is by initially making everything seem normal. Everything feels like it's actually an event happening in the movie, but something feels slightly off. For example, characters start to behave differently and do non-characteristic things, and things get progressively weirder, letting you know something is wrong. Then suddenly there's a strange reveal of some sort, like someone has a crab claw for an arm and everyone in this world acts like it's totally normal except the person having the dream. Usually this is around the time that the person dreaming wakes up and everything goes back to normal.


I have seen movies portray dreams by fading the frame into a white cloud or by zooming in until the image is blurry, I have also seen a spiral type of transition to let us know that we are no longer in the present time of the movie. and just like they did in Eternal Sunshine, I have also seen abstract thinking from cars falling form the sky to talking objects and etc.

Gabriel Yanez

I think the film Inception does showing dreaming really well. Though this might be due to that is the plot of the film. The TV show Scrubs uses sound effects to signify when the main character day dreams, then shows what they are day dreaming about.

Kevin Smith

One of the ways I have seen dreams portrayed in movies is through cutting rapidly through frames. I believe that this is to signify that what we remember of dreams is largely fragments. The first movie that came to my head that does this is Batman Begins, in which Bruce is dreaming about falling into the pit as a child.

Blake Bauer

Besides the use of color and transitions to distinguish the dream state, sometimes films will have exaggerated features and/or unrealistic details or physical behavior (i.e. floating islands or a talking potato). As noted above, Inception does a great job with this.

Ryan Giles

The use of color in the dream is very illustrated and very moving towards the scene. It allows you to see all of this animation and work they put into this one sequence in the film. A film that I can remember that used this type of technique is called Altered States. They used imagery and color to support the dream states that the main character has each time he falls asleep

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