Midnight in Paris is a fantasy comedy written in 2011, directed by Woody Allen. Anne Seibel is responsible for the production design of this movie. Midnight in Paris reflects on the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better. It is essentially about a man trying to come to terms with the conflict he has been burdening himself with for a while.

About the Movie

It presents the story of a screenwriter and an aspiring novelist, Gil Pender, who holds a great love for the city of Paris. He is forced to confront the shortcomings of his relationship with his acquisitive fiancée and their divergent goals. The difficulties become increasingly exaggerated as he travels back in time each night into the golden age of the City of Lights. The story also adds epochs of love stories in the protagonist’s relationship with his fiancé in the present and the girl he met in 1920’s Paris. 

An architectural review of Midnight in Paris - Sheet1
Midnight in Paris_©moviefone.com

While vacationing in Paris, one night he encounters a group of strange yet familiar revelers who sweep him back in time for a night with the Jazz Age’s icons of art and literature. It is a miraculous turn of events that he gets transported to Paris of the 1920s. It seems as if the nostalgia shop from his novel has come to life. Every night he takes this midnight journey and meets the exemplars of 1920s literati. It seems to be the writer’s unreal dream to spend time with the ideals of the early 20th century. After spending time with these cultural heroes from the past every night post-midnight, he realizes his exigencies for the present.

Opening Sequences

This movie is prominently shot in Paris exhibiting the city from the past and the present. The opening sequence shows the cameras lingering on the stunning Parisian vistas, setting the right visual tone for the entire movie following. The way Paris is exhibited in this scene in warmer color, in all its glory, makes it highly palatable. 

It begins with the montage of opulent Parisian structures on the sides of the streets with lush greenery on the intersection of the streets. The blooming cherry blossoms in the center of the boulevards enhance the quintessential Parisian background with avenues and vehicles at the edges.

An architectural review of Midnight in Paris - Sheet2
Streets of Paris_©Soap2day.com

The first few clips also exhibit the vibrant city of lights with the Seine river in the epicenter with the Pont d’Iéna bridge linking either side of the city with cruisers passing from underneath. The Eiffel tower soars touching the sky in the background surrounded by other typical edifices. 

An architectural review of Midnight in Paris - Sheet3
Eiffel Tower_©Soap2day.com

Architectural Attractions

The lights shining and the orange glow on the Seine with the ambiance draws up a romantic daydream for the viewers. The dimmed lights create a monotone for the rich railings edging the streets in the starry night, the effulgent Eiffel tower in the setting with cars passing by creates a sense of euphoria for the viewers, thus justifying the city’s name ‘La Ville–Lumière (The City of Lights)’.

An architectural review of Midnight in Paris - Sheet4
Night view of the Eiffel Tower_©Soap2day.com

The low rise, walkable, and charmingly coherent streets are cobbled stoned and the apartments are topped with broad, protective gable roofs. There are locations in Midnight in Paris that have a view of the traditional city of Paris making them strikingly significant spots. 

An architectural review of Midnight in Paris - Sheet5
View of the Paris city_©Soap2day.com

Architecture is a crucial element of the romantic drama show. It has a recognizable character. The movie exudes all facets of the architecture of the beautiful city of Paris from the finest example of French Gothic architecture of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, modernism in the Louvre Pyramid, to the Flamboyant Parisian style evident on the streets. 

Midnight in Paris shows various classic places of the French capital like Bistro Paul, Palace Le Bristol, Le Grand Véfour, and Orangery Museum as well. The scenes are shot in a way that the viewers get to experience the beauty of the city on the Seine virtually. There are sceneries set in such places which are upscale with an impressive list of customers since the beginning. 

Light, Colors, and Visual Elements

Not only the backgrounds, but the colors also depict the period in which the protagonist travels. Brown, maroon and beige undertones give the time travel effect whereas the brighter colors are used for the contemporary period, to give a sense of time passing from one to another. Also, the brightness and dimness of the lighting are important factors in all the stages. The unification of colors, textures, shades and lights plays a pivotal role in the filming. The visual elements like furniture, paintings, etc. also attract the audience, so using suitable elements to show the transition of the time was necessary.

Usage Brown mid-tones in the time travel to the past_©Soap2day.com

Conclusion

The infusion of pertinent themes of existence and nostalgia into a narrative around the city and its history of art and culture is certainly praiseworthy. The movie explores a variety of themes like existentialism, modernism, and reminiscence. The movie restages the effect of modernism on the city and the sense of human scale by clearing tree-lined neighborhoods to create streets and towers. 

References:

  1. Anon, (n.d.). The production design of “Midnight In Paris” – conversation with Anne Seibel · Pushing Pixels. [online] Available at: https://www.pushing-pixels.org/2011/11/18/the-production-design-of-midnight-in-paris-conversation-with-anne-seibel.html [Accessed 4 Feb. 2022].
  2. ‌Los Angeles Times. (2011). Critic’s Notebook: Woody Allen, Terrence Malick engage in architectural nostalgia. [online] Available at: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-xpm-2011-jun-19-la-ca-hawthorne-notebook-20110619-story.html [Accessed 4 Feb. 2022].
  3. ‌wp.wwu.edu. (n.d.). Dream In the Past — Analysis of Midnight in Paris, Final | Tea+Movie. [online] Available at: https://wp.wwu.edu/ambergaodu/2016/12/02/dream-in-the-past-analysis-of-midnight-in-paris-final/.‌
Author

Namita Karnik is a budding architect, zealous explorer, and imaginative thinker. With the knack of writing, she wishes to convey her thoughts to the world. Thriving for new experiences, she holds immense love for travel, sketching, and photography.

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