Film Craft has always been enigmatic. It incorporates many overlapping layers that the director and the creative people put together to narrate a story in many different ways. The cinema has a subtle power to lift one off the reality and makes it possible for us to get lost in a make-believe world. The whole concept is something that the director has visualized, imagined, choreographed, designed, and brought on the screen for us. But well, what transports us first into the mood of the story is the backdrop and the architecture showcased in the cinema. It sets the premise for the audience to take a back seat and enjoy themselves in a world of supposition and virtual reality. Being a visual medium, the visual architecture in the films has a tougher job in order to make sure that the audience also experiences the spaces and not just see.

The 5 Hollywood films listed below give us an overview of different eras, different ideologies, different periods, and a different role of visual architecture in establishing their concepts very vividly.

1. 300

A film set in 5th century B.C. portraying the Spartan war against the Persians has been supported very aptly by the simple, austere, and plain architecture. The presence of a courtyard surrounded by rooms, the unembellished white walls, the closely packed houses lined up against the streets in a cluster is successful enough to give the audience a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Spartan people in the Mediterranean climate at the edge of the Greek lands. The complete absence of decorations and the bareness of the visual architecture fade in the backdrop thus emphasizing the raw character of the Spartan people and their concentration on more important things like military, their freedom, and continuous training for wars and combats and laying down lives proudly to withhold their independent sovereignty.

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2. Godfather

Probably, the best mafia film to date, this movie takes a plunge right away into the dark forbidden world, hidden from the normal people but operating on a full swing right in the heart of America! The opening scene itself establishes the premise so strongly that the Mafia King Don Vito Corleone and his richly furnished burgundy wooden paneled room gives a vicious creepy vibe and sets the tone of the entire film. The references to the parallel Victorian and Italian pompous architecture during the mid-twentieth century, the ostentatious show of the rich people and the culture along with the grand manors, vivacious estates, and the opulent interiors gives us a sneak peek into the lives of the conmen and their lifestyle!

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3. The Da Vinci Code

Set in a fictitious world, staged in the present-day Paris and with a backdrop of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, and the Holy Grail, the movie is a treat to watch for any architect and history lover. The mystery unfurls in the most unusual style and takes the audience on a tour of Europe, describing the rich historic events that have happened spanning thousands of years and still hold secrets which if revealed, can disrupt the belief system of the Church. A film that is based on a novel by Dan Brown essentially captures the intricate detailing of the cathedrals, museums, architectural monuments to the tiniest element like the statues, carvings, paintings, manuscripts, design of spaces, entries, and exits, which passionately help in explaining the plot, the story and the final revelation to the already spellbound audience.

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4. Passengers

An accidental hiccup in a hibernation pod in a sleeper ship called Avalon introduces the protagonist and the audience to a futuristic world. Completely mechanized, the ship consists of robotic machinery in its every inch. This visual architecture here is absolutely manmade, methodical, and self-operated and devoid of any natural elements, where the machines are the ones that are controlling the humans and acting according to pre-programmed assumptions done by the scientists. An interesting aspect to look forward to is that the impact becomes more pronounced when the protagonists find themselves surrounded by this robotic environment and strive to survive the glitch in the machinery. Stuck in the ship and unable to reach into the living world for the next 90 years or so, the only living organisms on the ship tend to leave it a better place by growing an entire forest and breathing life into the otherwise artificial architectural world around. A sci-fi film that expresses irony of life very effectively!

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5. Dr. Strange

A science and superhero fictional film that makes us believe that extraordinary things can happen, and the entire plot builds on giving us a thrilling experience through time, planes, and mind games. The architecture is the hero here wherein, it compels us to witness the other heightened dimensions of the mind like being able to control the vertical planes in a haphazard way, twisting them to make it more bizarre yet believable. Very well crafted and always playing with our minds to think and understand more, Dr. Strange sets the tone to pull us into a space that might or might not be present! To imagine and come up with such a multi-dimensional architectural landscape has to be the job of a master at work.

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Being an architect, observing locations, backdrops, and architecture becomes second nature. Relating scenes with the characters and observing how they add drama to bestow a unique style to the cinema is a mind enriching experience. Costumes, jewelry, accessories, music, and colors are the immediate surroundings that allow the mood to set in, thus making a scene complete to the last dot.

To conclude, the entire set up looks remarkable only because, all of these are put in with the right amount and in the right position. There is a balance struck between every element and that’s why everything blends together perfectly to transform into an incredible artwork. Thus, in the end, all these intriguing features and aspects coalesce together and let us live differently for a short while!

Shruti Ramteerthkar
Author

An architect by profession, bookworm, traveller, writer and painter by passion… she is also trying her hand in architectural photography… But, at the core, she is a person who wants to experience the world as it comes and brushes past her in the most dramatic yet in a subtle way!

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