Martin Scorsese's The Departedis a crime thriller that explores the world of organized crime and undercover police work in Boston. The film's use of color and symbolism is a crucial element of its visual style and storytelling.

In this article, we will examine Scorsese's use of these in The Departed, exploring how it enhances the film's themes and character development.

Let's dive in.

How Does Scorsese Layers Symbolism and Color?

Scorsese is known for his masterful use of symbolism and color in his films, and The Departed is no exception. In this film, Scorsese uses a multi-layered approach to symbolism and color that creates a rich and complex narrative.

One of the most prominent examples of Scorsese's use of color in The Departed is his use of the color blue. We'll get to that. Also, the color red is used to represent danger and violence, as seen in the blood spatter that appears in several scenes. The color green is used to represent money and greed, as well as the Irish heritage of the characters.

Scorsese also layers symbolism into the film through his use of imagery and motifs. The recurring image of rats, for example, reinforces the idea of betrayal and duplicity in the film. The use of religious symbols and imagery, such as crucifixes and church scenes, adds another layer of symbolism that underscores the theme of morality and ethics.

Another way in which Scorsese layers symbolism is through his use of framing and composition. The repeated use of "X" shapes in the film, as well as the placement of characters against certain backgrounds, creates a sense of visual unity and coherence that adds to the film's overall impact.

We'll expand on these later.

How Does Martin Scorsese Use the Color Blue in The Departed?

Scorsese's use of color in The Departed is a notable aspect of the film's visual style, and the color blue plays a significant role in the movie's storytelling and mood.

One of the primary ways Scorsese uses blue in The Departed is through the film's cinematography. The film's color palette is dominated by blue and its shades, which creates a dark, moody, and somber atmosphere.

Blue lighting is used extensively in scenes set in the police station, emphasizing the cold and sterile environment where the police officers work.

The use of blue lighting in these scenes not only adds to the film's visual aesthetic but also helps to underscore the moral ambiguity and ethical dilemmas of the characters. The police officers are supposed to be the good guys, but they are often seen doing morally questionable things, and the blue lighting helps to reinforce this moral ambiguity.

In addition to the cinematography, blue is often associated with the character of Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) who is a member of the Irish mafia and works as a mole for them within the Boston police department. Colin wears a blue tie in several scenes, and his apartment is decorated with blue furniture, emphasizing his deception and duality.

When he's shot at the end? It's Mark Wahlberg in head-to-toe blue who does it.

On the other hand, the character of Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is associated with the color brown, which represents his working-class background and his connection to the streets.

The contrast between the blue and brown color schemes reinforces the idea that these two characters come from different worlds and are engaged in a dangerous game of deception and betrayal.

How Martin Scorsese Layers Symbolism and Color in 'The Departed''The Departed'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

What Other Symbolism Exists in The Departed?

In addition to using the color blue, the movie features several other forms of symbolism that contribute to the film's rich and complex narrative. Here are a few examples:

  1. Rats: Throughout the film, rats are used as a recurring symbol to represent betrayal and duplicity. In the opening scene, a rat is shown scurrying across the street, and later, it is revealed that one of the characters is working as an informant for the police. The use of rats underscores the theme of deception and reinforces the idea that no one in the film can be trusted.
  2. Religion: Religion is also a significant theme in The Departed. Several characters, including Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) and Billy Costigan, attend church or are shown wearing religious symbols such as crucifixes. The use of religion in the film underscores the idea of morality and ethics and how these values can be manipulated or ignored in the pursuit of power.
  3. Food: Food is used symbolically in several scenes throughout the film. For example, Frank Costello offers cranberry juice to Colin Sullivan (played by Matt Damon) in one scene, which is a nod to the fact that cranberries are a major crop in Massachusetts and a symbol of the state. The use of food reinforces the idea that the film takes place in a specific location with its own unique culture and identity.
  4. Firearms: Firearms are used as a symbol of power and control in "The Departed." The characters who have access to guns, such as the police officers and members of the Irish mafia, are shown to have more power and control over their environment. The use of firearms reinforces the theme of violence and danger that runs throughout the film.
  5. The letter 'X': The letter "X" is also used symbolically to represent death and mortality. In several scenes, characters who are about to die are shown framed against a background of "X" shapes, such as the metal grating in an elevator or the windows of a building. This use of the letter "X" underscores the film's themes of violence and danger and reinforces the idea that death always lurks around the corner.

By using a range of different symbols and motifs, Scorsese creates a rich and complex narrative that explores themes of identity, loyalty, betrayal, and power.

The use of these symbols reinforces the film's central ideas and adds depth and complexity to its characters and themes.

THow Martin Scorsese Layers Symbolism and Color in 'The Departed''The Departed'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Summing Up How Martin Scorsese Uses the Color Blue in The Departed

Scorsese's use of blue in The Departed is an excellent example of how color can be used to enhance a film's storytelling and create a particular mood. The film's visual style, including its blue lighting and color scheme, reinforces the moral ambiguity and ethical dilemmas of the characters, while also symbolizing their allegiances and conflicts.

Overall, Scorsese's masterful use of color in The Departed is one of the many reasons why the film is considered a modern classic in the crime genre.

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