In a movie, what is it that makes leaves the audience in awe. Is it actors’ enchanting performance? The stunning cinematic moments? But did you ever think it could be the extensive and intricately detailed sets that set the stage for the memoirs of love, drama and tragedy play out?
Architecture in cinema is akin to teleportation. Without any visuals or scenes to resemble or elaborate the storyline no one will be able to connect to the characters or understand what the writer wants to express. From Hitchcock’s pioneering use and representation of space to Kubrick’s anxious use of interiors to Terry Gilliam’s absurdo-futurist panoply of forms in Brazil, one realizes that both cinema and architecture are intertwined art forms that tell stories through the collaborative effort of the artists involved. They go hand in hand where no feature is done by accident but rather is meticulously planned and placed with careful precision and deliberation.
Here are some great pieces of cinema that show how architecture impacts the storyline and in turn the viewer’s perception:
The Oscar winning movie ‘Parasite’ tells us the story of the difference in class through architecture. The architecture of the Parks’ villa is a snapshot of what today’s affluent society deems as great architecture with big airy rooms and windows that bring in abundant natural light. When you compare that to the dingy semi-basement that the Kim family resides in with its lack of light and cramped spaces that flood with water at the onset of rains, it becomes a projection of the real society.
Quoting director Bong Joon Ho, “A minimalist space makes you feel that all you see is all there is. To see that, you get the sense that it’s not trying to hide anything beneath the complicated layers. The simple planes and the lines come together to make you feel like you’ve seen everything. And that’s why when you see the man in the bunker and the hidden parts of the house, it’s more shocking for the audience because you assume that you have seen everything and nothing is hidden.”
A prime example of how architecture can move and inspire a person through cinema, Midnight in Paris is a cinematic masterpiece by Woody Allen that takes the viewers through the drop dead gorgeous rainy streets of “années folles” Paris.
Many of us can relate to the protagonist Gil Pender when he wants to escape his fiancé Inez, symbolic of a materialistic and morose life to Adriana, his dreamy and passionate lover from an era he longs _©Neon + CJ Entertainment
2. Midnight in Paristo visit.
The architectural era Adriana belongs to, Art Nouveau, coincidentally is synonymous with sinuous lines and curvilinear forms depicting change, passion and romance. From Chateau de Versailles to the orange glow on the Seine, the architecture of Golden Era Paris gives life Gil’s romanticism, existentialism and nostalgia.
Truly a gem when it comes to related architecture and cinema, the sets of Padmavati, designed by Subrata Chakraborty, Amit Rayand and envisioned by Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, are a clear depiction of that era it was set in.
The elaborate detailing of each set from the use of mud for the Khilji Palace in Afghanistan to the lush green landscapes of Singhal, each detail is curated to visually transport the viewer to the era the characters reside in. The stark difference in the set of Khilji Palace and Chittorgarh Fort gives us a peek into the complex personalities of the characters and their actions.
4. Mother India
This cult classic Bollywood cinema, based on a Socialist theme cultivated in the backyard of rural India, whose aesthetic value largely depends on depicting the meager lives of the poor citizens of a newly formed nation, showcases all the attributes stating an Urban Village representing a rural Hinterland.
Though it was set up in 1957 when technology was not as advanced as it is now, still managed to portray a typical Indian village and manages to convince the viewers to be able to relate to the village, its inhabitants and their lifestyle to this day. This is also made possible by recreating the cognitive image of a typical Indian village through their sets.
- Evan Pavka (2018). Architecture On Screen: Illustrated Plans From 6 Award-Winning Films of 2017 [online] (Last updated 31 Jan 2018) Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/887807/architecture-on-screen-illustrated-plans-from-6-award-winning-films-of-2017?ad_medium=widget&ad_name=recommendation [Accessed 03-06-2021].
- Romullo Baratto (2017). How Architecture Speaks Through Cinema [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/872754/how-architecture-speaks-through-cinema [Accessed 03-06-2021]
- Mithun Sheth (2019). Architecture in cinema [online] Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/space-conception/architecture-in-cinema/ [Accessed 04-06-2021]
- Rachel Wallace (2019). Inside the House From Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite [online] Available at: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/bong-joon-ho-parasite-movie-set-design-interview [Accessed 04-06-2021]
- Parasite. 2019. [Movie]. Bong Joon Ho. South Korea. Barunson E&A
- Midnight in Paris. 2011. [Movie]. Woody Allen. United States of America. Gravier Productions
- Padmavat. 2018. [Movie]. Sanjay Leela Bansali. India. Vaicom18 Pictures.
- Mother India. 1957. [Movie]. Mehboob Khan. India.