Spielberg has often spoken of how he uses light to reflect emotion in his films and Catch Me If You Can is a great example.
In the film, Frank Abagnale flees the trauma of his parents’ divorce by taking up a number of glamourous jobs - pilot, doctor, lawyer - all with the ultimate aim of bringing his parents back together.
The goal is a futile one right from the start and Spielberg establishes this through his use of white, blue and orange light.
WHITE LIGHT - In two scenes at the start of the film, when Frank becomes aware of his parents’ problems and is told of their divorce, Spielberg uses white light as a way to represent truth and shock. When Frank finds his mother mysteriously locked in her bedroom with another man, Spielberg positions Mrs Abagnale so she is surrounded by white light. He does the same in a later scene with Frank when the character learns that his fears of a divorce are indeed coming true.
Spielberg re-uses this white light throughout the film as Frank moves from con to con. This links Frank’s actions with his parents divorce, reinforcing the idea that everything he does in the film is an attempt to escape his pain.
BLUE LIGHT - Throughout the film, harsh blue light comes to represent danger. It is continually used in scenes with the FBI agents who are chasing Frank and those set in the prisons he gets locked in. It can also be seen lurking in the background of several shots that feature Frank in the foreground. He’s not just running from the authorities - he’s also running from this foreboding blue light.
ORANGE LIGHT - Whenever Frank flees the blue light, he’s normally fleeing into orange light. Warm and inviting, orange light represents the life Frank’s looking for. However, as Spielberg heightens the colour so much, and often uses it in scenes where blue light can be seen in the background, the light represent false comfort. He’s just escaping into a dream.
WHITE LIGHT - At the end of the film, Spielberg returns to the white light he used at the start. By this point, Frank’s father has died and his mother has moved on to start up a new family. The white light that covered her at the start of the film was both damning and indicative of a fresh start - a fresh start she took full advantage of.
By bathing Frank in softer white light at the end of the film, Spielberg is showing that Frank now realises that he too should have taken his parents divorce as a chance for a fresh start. Now he’s matured and stopped running, he can embrace his second chance and start a new life in which he’ll be able to do some good as part of the FBI.