The backdrop of a movie is always portrayed carefully, hinting on many factors that make it up, the cultural ethos of the time and personalities of the characters. In some cases, the architecture not only serves as décor but becomes a powerful and prominent element interacting with the characters at play. Following is a list, where architecture plays a crucial role in the narrative, adding to the charm of the film.
1. Mon uncle by Jacques Tati (1958)
The film is a comical satire on mechanized living in the age of modern architecture. Jacques plays the role of Monsieur Hulot, a man of simple means, living an uncomplicated life. The home of Hulot’s materialistic sister and brother-in-law is overbearingly ultra-modern to a point where it causes discomfort in the day to day living. The film emphasizes the postwar fascination of modern architecture in France. The couple, living in the suburbs of Paris, is always brandishing their distinct commodities that are more aesthetic rather than functional, and Monsieur Hulot seems to be struggling with its impractical usage.
2. Two or Three Things I Know About Her by Jean-Luc Godard (1967)
The movie is set in Paris of the 1960s, entrenched in globalization and consumerism. It presents the monotonous and empty life of Juliette Jeanson, a married mother, whose life involves prostitution. The city is reconstructing itself with great projects, but the life of the characters in the film do not seem as lively as the city itself. The filmmaker conveys to the audience his fear of the contemporary world.
3. Play Time by Jacques Tati (1967).
Playtime is a French-Italian comedy film with Tati’s trademark use of subtle visual comedy. M.Hulot, played by Tati himself, is perplexed by outlandish technology in the steel and glass office buildings he arrives at. He is lost in the maze of rooms and offices that all look alike. The movie presents the modernist building as a hostile environment that assures convenience but leads to more complications.
4. The Bicycle Thief by De Sica (1948)
The movie presents views of Italy’s post-war period. The story follows the numerous hardships faced by a poverty-stricken father trying to find his stolen bicycle. It depicts post-war landscapes with conditions of scarcity and oppression.
5. Urbanized by Gary Hustwit (2011)
The film is an engrossing documentary that encourages discussions on crime, corruption, and overcrowding in today’s urban centers. It journeys us through cities like Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Detroit, New York, New Orleans, and many more to highlight various issues of transport, city planning, and energy consumption. The film emphasizes that other than experts and city planners, there is also a significant contribution of citizens in the design of cities. The optimistic film deliberates towards valid speculation of the future of cities and strikes ones thinking chord.
6. Westworld by Jonathan Nolan (2016-2020)
Westworld is a series known for its futuristic megacities. Westworld makers created the exuberant designs with the help of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. The Los Angeles of 2058 has a dramatic and robust future scape, explored in an engrossing storyline. Some of the prominent designs in the backdrop of the second and third seasons include the helix bridge, Park Royal on Pickering, Esplanade and Marina one. It also features many of Santiago Calatrava’s inspiring designs in Spain.
7. Columbus by Kogonada (2017)
The movie revolves around two young individuals who are tied to the city of Columbus because of their parents. A Korean-born man whose architect father is in a coma and a young woman in concern for her recovering addict mother. The filmmaker has not just used the midcentury architecture of the city as a backdrop but weaved it into intrinsic moments of the narrative. It has some modernist buildings by architects like IM Pei, Eero Saarinen, Harry Weese, and Robert Venturi, which have made their way into the community life of a small town. Every scene is carefully shot, impeccably framing the profiles of these renowned works.
8. The Architect by Jonathan Parker (2016)
The movie is a satire on the life of an architect who builds a house of his whims and fancies for an upper middle class married couple. He is pretentious and arrogant, hell-bent in enforcing his idea of a house into his clients’ minds. The wife is drawn towards the architect’s powerful conceptualizing and profoundness in contrast to her mechanized husband. The architect is stereotyped for many characterizations like his dressing or design ideas. It is a comical take on an architect trying to build his masterpiece rather than his client’s dream house.
9. Infinite happiness by ila bêka, Louise Lemoine (2015)
A documentary, The Infinite Happiness, revolves around the lives of residents dwelling in the ‘8’ housing development designed by Bjarke Ingels in Copenhagen. The houses are stacked in innovative design and are connected by a cycling path up to the 10th floor. Their lives offer a happy, inspiring picture of the communal design. Along with many amenities, the unusual building also has a cycle path running up till the 10th floor, changing the notions of conventional housing.
10. Her by Spike Jonze (2013)
The movie presents a scene of Los Angeles shortly, but not in a dystopian way. It is believable and close to normal life. The city has buildings of towering heights, sky bridges, and no traffic. The places seem generic, presenting a kind of monocultural, globalized future, where buildings all look the same. The movie is an interesting take on artificial intelligence and interaction with day to day objects in public space.