A stop motion animated film, Coraline is a 2009 American dark fantasy horror film. It is based on the character of a little girl, Coraline, who moves into a new house with her parents but complains about her boring, dull life. A hidden little door in this new house leads her into a parallel life where all her wishes come true, but at the same time, there is a price to pay.
The movie is critically acclaimed universally and has won multiple awards, even nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. There is an eye for detail in the movie unmatched by any. The mood and settings change as the film contrasts Coraline’s dull life in the real world with her idealized life in the parallel world. To show this contrast, subtle architectural details and color composition are remarkable and cause the mind of anyone with even the slightest artistic bend to think about these differences. It makes the architect think about how each detail in the film has been carefully crafted by designers, which is no short of great inspiration. This short essay will analyze different shots of the movie, in the real world and the parallel world, and examine how architecture is used to visually set these two worlds apart.
The Garden | Review of Coraline
The apartment sits in front of a large garden area which, in the real world, looks desolate and bleak. The hardscaping with half-alive plants and no colors whatsoever gives a monotony that arises feelings of harshness in the viewer. The garden area looks rigid and perished. But as soon as Coraline visits the parallel world, this garden goes through a metamorphosis into an exuberant space buzzing with vibrant flora and fauna. The rigidity of the hardscape is subdued by dynamic plants. It teaches how the development of context is just as important as the main building itself.
In Coraline’s real-world life, the kitchen is an unexciting, toned-down space. Even though having no crockery visible on counters, but stored in cupboards, can give a look of cleanliness, it rather portrays an emotionless area in this context. The wide window with no blinds, the grey tones of the kitchen, and unexciting lighting fixtures and furniture all give the kitchen a dull, listless vibe. In contrast to this, the kitchen in the parallel world looks exciting and spirited. The placement of colorful crockery in the right places shows the space is in use and brings about dynamism. Crafted details in light fixtures, furniture, and even the stove hood all give a character to the kitchen, previously missing.
The House | Review of Coraline
The pink palace apartment in the real world is a dull and shabby house, faded in colors and lacking character in terms of details. It looks like any horror movie house, sitting atop an abandoned hill, something that our main character Coraline, would not enjoy. In the parallel world, however, the same place looks bright, lively, and joyous. This has been achieved by adding beautiful Venetian details all over the house’s facade and revamping the faded colours. The added light fixtures in the elevation bring about warmth, which attracts the film’s little girl. Even the external staircase is given a facelift and painted in fresh white, giving a look of freshness.
Coraline’s real bedroom is unremarkable, with hardly anything to mark it as a little girl’s bedroom. There are no curtains, no color, no character other than a semi-fancy four-poster bed. In a blank canvas, the focus goes on this bed straight away, giving this room a feeling of a space that is to be used just to sleep in, nothing more. Analogous to this, Coraline’s parallel world bedroom screams joy. It is painted in bright colors, fit for a little girl of Coraline’s nature. The four-poster bed is detailed with a canopy, in this world balanced by equally detailed furniture in the rest of the room. The rugs and curtains along with the wall shelf decorated with toys bring it life. The bay window curtains are attached to its threshold rather than the windows, giving a feeling of grandeur to the entrance of the bay window.
The Study | Review of Coraline
Coraline’s dad’s study is messy and stacked with boxes. There is no space to accommodate anything but a single study table. With barely even any light creeping in, the gray tones of the room are magnified. As the real world dad is always busy with his work, with no time for leisure, this room, more or less, describes him. Contrarily, in the parallel world, the study is more of a hobby room for the dad. There are bright colored accent pieces against the gray of the walls, thus highlighting these accent pieces and telling the viewer how changed of a man Coraline’s dad is in this new world.
What we can learn from this film is how colors and details can drastically change the look of a space. This in turn affects the user. The look of the room, in this film, is also used to express the nature of the user, like dull rooms reflect the nonchalant attitude of Coraline’s parents towards her. As opposed to that, the effort of the parallel world parents to create spaces that will be to the liking of Coraline shows their concerned attitude. All in all, the film is great for architects and interior designers as well!