A key factor in Punch-Drunk Love as expressionistic work of art is found within the colors (including Jeremy Blake's artwork), the music (by the brilliantly talented Jon Brion), and sounds. Each serve essentially as a character in the film and play pivotal roles in the emotional connection of visual expression of the film.


There are many bright colors in the film, all with a detailed expression and emotional. Much of the films colors are essentially working with the artwork seen throughout the film. This artwork appears several times throughout the Punch-Drunk Love (and can even be seen in elements of the films composition- i.e. in the supermarket). What it does is play a role in Punch-Drunk Love's endless assault of a multiple level of emotions. The artwork (even in short moments) is beautifully breathtaking, and seem to work perfectly within the mood and flow of the films narrative. Anderson is essentially stretching the boundaries of cinematic narrative with this visual expression.

Aside from Blake's artwork, Anderson uses several key colors to express the emotions and narrative of the film. The most obvious is the use of Blue, Red, and White. Throughout Punch-Drunk Love, Anderson places these colors within the emotional and physical environment of Barry's character (as discussed in Part I, a form of visual expression shared by filmmakers such as Jacques Tati, or Stanley Kubrick, among others).

Blue is used throughout the film as an indication of Barry's emotional state of loneliness. Obviously the most notable example is the blue suit Barry is seen wearing throughout the film. Blue is found in both Barry's home and at his office, and very much represents a part of him. Notice how Blue also works with another prominent color of the film White (which is described in further detail below). The opening shot, as well as Barry isolated at home, in the office, or in the bathroom express his emotion through the visual use of Blue and White.

Red is the most expressive and prominent color expression of Punch-Drunk Love. It represents the most positive aspects of Barry's physical and emotional character. Red is freedom, and opportunity, and ultimately happiness for Barry. Red is the color dress worn by Lena (when they first meet and on their date), but it also acts as the color in which leads or guides Barry to happiness.

For example, notice the first sequence in which Barry goes to the Grocery Store. He is not sure why he is there and even asks himself what he is looking for. As he tracks through the isle it becomes evident that he is being followed in the parallel distance by a woman in a red dress (similar to the one Lena was wearing when she dropped off the car by Barry's office). As Barry stops so does the woman in red, and as he turns to look towards her, she moves away. Barry then finds the pudding where he has stopped. Was this woman Lena? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Maybe it is Barry's subconscious imagination or even his feeling of Lena. Ultimately it is left open, as the expression is captured through the visual use of the color red, which leads Barry to the pudding which in turn leads him to freedom and to Lena. A truly brilliant moment!

Red is found more throughout the film, but it's expression and meaning is the same. In the incredible car crash / harmonium-drop sequence, it is a red car that flips over in front of Barry and then a red taxi which drops off the harmonium. These would seem bizarre moments to consider happiness or freedom for Barry, but what they express emotionally or symbolically certainly are (they will be discussed more in Part III: Visual Symbolism). Other elements of Red can be found in the red truck that Barry runs toward when leaving his office to go to Lena in Hawaii, or even the two women at the airport terminal are dressed in red as Barry boards to Hawaii.

White is perhaps the most complex and ambitious color of the film. In many ways it contrasts with the use of Red yet combines with Blue, a color it often shares within the same frame. While Blue represents Barry's emotional state, and Red an opportunity escape, White is expressed as Barry's physical state or his entrapment and isolation. The use of white is often expressed with open space environment or isolated framing by Anderson. White is also seen absorbing or engulfing Barry in his isolation. Examples include the opening shot of the film (in which White- Barry's physical state, blends with Blue- Barry's emotional state). Or notice the Tati-esque sequence in which Barry is physically trapped trying to find Lena's apartment which is filled with bare white walls. Also notice the walls or even the bright white light that shines in Barry's office, often isolating him in the frame.

Another notable color seen a couple times is that of glowing yellow. This is used to heighten the feeling and impact. It is found in moments in which Barry has transcended his environment or even his feeling of loneliness. The color can be seen most notably after Barry brings the harmonium in his office and begins to play it for the first time. Also the lovely sequence in Hawaii, when Barry is on the phone during a parade. When he finally connects with Lena, the phone booth lights up. The parade also begins to gets louder as the atmosphere is filled with joy, but Barry has completely transcended this through his feeling of Lena, as expressed through the use of the yellow glow.

One other visual technique Anderson uses throughout Punch-Drunk Love is the lens flare. In the textbook world of cinematography a lens flare is generally regarded as a mistake by the cinematographer, but it's quite evident Anderson is embracing the lens flare as a form of expression in this film. While the use of the lens flare is much less consistent in value as the use of Blue, White, or Red, it does heighten the emotion of a particular scene. Ultimately the lens flare is representing the presence of love, which can't ever be fully captured. Through the use of the lens flare, Anderson is heightening the feeling Barry and Lena have for each other as an additional form of visual expression.


Music is very important in the emotion and expression of Punch-Drunk Love. It is very much a character of the film. In fact, Anderson and composer Jon Brion worked out much of the music prior to shooting, as the music works almost as another screenplay. In many ways Punch-Drunk Love is a melody captured on film. Both the visual and emotional aspects, as well as the themes of the film work like music. Brion achieves this brilliantly and ultimately the use of music in Punch-Drunk Love rates among the very greatest in the history of cinema.

Aside from beautifully capturing the themes and emotions of the film, Anderson uses music (and sound) as a new element of narrative expression and characterization. The music is often played over-top dialogue, stretching the boundaries or conventions of cinematic language. The music clinically works with Barry's emotional/physical state, and more specifically his progression with a key element of the film: the harmonium (which will be discussed much more in Part 3). Of course, harmonium equates to harmony, and harmony is very much the heart of Punch-Drunk Love, and most notably it's theme and feeling of love. Key examples of the way music is used to heighten this feeling can be found after Barry brings the harmonium back to the office as he begins to feel a strange, wonderful and mysterious feeling, and it's beautifully captured through Brion's breathtaking music. Other notable examples of music heightening the expression and feeling of film can be found in "He Needs Me" song leading up to the silhouette kiss. And of course in the final "so here we go" moment of the film (which will also be discussed more later) we see Barry playing in-sync with Brion's score… a lovely moment!!


Anderson has always used sound effectively in his films, but as a form of emotional and psychological expression, sound is taken to a entirely new height in Punch-Drunk Love. One of the great ways sound is used (besides it's masterful collaboration with Brion's music) is through a seemingly internal or psychological feeling for Barry. Often there are sounds in the film that seem to only exist in Barry subconscious. Again, Anderson is extending the conventions of film narrative by expressing emotion, story and characterization through sound.

A couple examples: Take the opening sequence. As Barry is on the phone in the opening shot he hears something. After he hangs up he go outside where he thought he heard the sound. It is then that the cap flips over, and is immediately followed by the taxi that drops the harmonium. Another example comes the day after Barry's run-in with the four blonde brothers. Barry is talking with Lance in his office when he suddenly stops and stares at the pudding, which seems to be subconsciously talking to him. He then says "I better get more pudding", and tells Lance he is going to Hawaii. Loud sudden sounds are also used throughout the film (the truck that drives by Barry and the harmonium, Lance opening the garage, Barry beating up the bathroom, etc). Anderson is using the sound (like the music) as an additional form of expression, used to heighten the connection with Barry's emotional and psychological feelings.



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