|Kubrick liked charging primary and secondary colors with meaning.|
In other words: I am focussing on the slave girl that almost blends in with the scenery since her working dress looks like it was made out of the same cloth as the curtains.
|Crassus is obviously attracted to Varinia.|
|Green dominates Spartacus' environment. Does he represent vitality and nature?|
Green is a very important color in most of Kubrick's films. This does not mean that there is one single specified meaning attached to it as Kubrick often developed a self-contained semiotic language within a given filmic universe. After all, Kubrick was keen on ambiguity so that each member of the audience could interpret what they see in their own way. Some may argue that this does not extend to SPARTACUS, a movie with very clear-cut heroes and villains and - very unusual for Kubrick - a sentimental love story subplot. Yet while the story may be clear-cut, the visuals are not.
Looking at the female lead there is a rather straightforward progression from blending in to standing out reflected in the colors of her costume.
Spartacus meets Varinia when she is given to him for pleasure and he refuses to behave like an animal in a cage. As long as she is Batiatus' (Peter Ustinov) house slave, she is merely part of her surroundings wearing a very desaturated salmon working garment.
|Within a rather muted, earthly look there is a visible green - brown contrast.|
Then we see Varinia serve Batiatus and his illustrious guests. In these scenes that show Varinia as a witness of the Romans' conversations she still blends in while clad in a more elegant dress.
During the successful uprising, Varinia is forced to flee with Crassus. Now she is not trapped within the gates of Batiatus' farm any more. As the servant of an ambitious Roman politician she wears a pale red (salmon colored) cape/stole.
Finally, the lovers meet in the open at dusk. Now Spartacus blends in with the green environment. He seems to be at home here. Varinia's pale red dress made way for a darker but still desaturated purple dress.
|Isn't it ironic that after so many gorgeous location shots almost all the love scenes that take place in "natural environments" are recreated on a soundstage and look so explicitly artificial that they do not fit in with the rest of the movie?|
The next time we see her, she is bathing in a whole pool of green water and not too unexpectedly she confesses to Spartacus that she is pregnant.
|As Gen. Ripper in DR. STRANGELOVE says: "water is the source of all life". Maybe that is why virtually all love/sex scenes and implications in SPARTACUS are somehow connected to water. Just think of the famous "snails and oysters" pool scene.|
Later, in a tent, there is hardly any distinction between their colors as everything is illuminated by torches.
After the final battle however, we have seen so many bodies and so many captives. Only after the famous "I am Spartacus" scene, Crassus sees a deep red cape that does not belong to a fallen Roman soldier.
|This red cape does not belong to a Roman soldier...|
|...but to Varinia and her newborn baby boy.|
|Now, Varinia is in complementary contrast to the Roman soldier at the gates of the city.|
As I have already written, there is certainly more to these colors. Not least of all their immediate affective impact on the viewer and (as is expected with a filmmaker of Kubrick's meticulousness) historical accuracy. But since SPARTACUS is Kubrick's least interesting feature, I will not dig deeper any time soon.