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SYFY WIRE Original Video

How Alex Garland uses color in Annihilation and Ex Machina


Color is very much a part of our daily lives, except for the unfortunate few who can't see color at all. Colors surround us in almost every waking moment, and they shape our mood and perception in ways we don't always understand. But in film, colors are rarely chosen by chance. Instead, the color palette simply becomes another canvas for the filmmakers to tell their stories.

In SYFY WIRE's latest video, we're taking you to school! Film school, that is, by looking at the two feature films by director Alex Garland: Ex Machina and Annihilation. Garland's cinematic outings offer very striking visuals, and the colors themselves mark the path of the characters' journeys. It's worth noting that the protagonists of both stories, Caleb from Ex Machina and Lena from Annihilation, are represented by the color blue. That color grounds them in the real world of the movie, even as events in both stories take a fantastical turn.

Within Annihilation, beautiful colors like pink are visually recoded to signify danger. Note that pink flowers are always seen in the Shimmer shortly before some of Annihilation's most alarming sequences. Ex Machina also plays with the colors found in nature mixed alongside the stark black and white colors located in Nathan Bateman's compound.

The color white comes to symbolize rebirth for both Lena and Ex Machina's Ava. For Lena, her humanity is called into question after everything she experienced in the Shimmer. As for Ava, she turns out to be far too human for her maker to anticipate. But we can't say that Garland didn't warn us. Adding reds to Ava's clothing choices was a dead giveaway that she was dangerous.

For more color theory tidbits from Garland's films, check out the full video!