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Free Inspiration for Film Geeks: Stunning Sets and Production Designs in the Past Decade

1, 2, 3..Action! This post is for cinema lovers! Almost every architect is into cinematography somehow. Because the practices of architecture and film production have always been intertwined. Architects and designers in filmmaking are trying to better understand the spatial qualities of a design and communicate those qualities to the public. Now there are unique and inspiring designs in the movies that I've chosen for you, enjoy!
  • Ex Machina, 2014
    In the depths of Norway’s dense, panoramic scene abounding with fjords and mountains…Alex Garland’s science-fiction movie Ex Machina features just one location: a tech billionaire’s minimalist hideaway in Alaska.

The building rests on massive steel rods drilled into rock, with little disturbance to existing topography or vegetation. Interior surfaces have been treated with transparent oils containing black pigments so that reflections from the glass spans are minimized and the view outside remains prominent.

This Norwegian setting suited Ex Machina perfectly because the contrast between raw nature and minimalist architecture paralleled the tensions between human and artificial intelligence that undergird the storyline. “We wanted to constantly highlight that contradiction,” the production designer Mark Digby says. “The power of nature against the power of man.”

If you want to read more about the set design and learn some trivia, here’s the interview with the production designer Mark Digby:

  • The Shape of Water, 2017
    As you may remember, production designer Paul Austerberry took home Best Production Design Oscar for his work on Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” in 2017.

There are so many specific well-planned details about the set but my favorite one is the blue wall in Elisa’s apartment, which has an aquatic-themed mural on, the famous “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” woodblock print done by Japanese artist Hokusai in the 19th Century. To avoid hitting viewers over the head with it, the painting was gradually distressed…until it became practically invisible.

  • Blade Runner 2049, 2017
    Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner movie starring Harrison Ford is obviously the milestone of the science fiction genre and the creating of a dystopian atmosphere. And in the sequel -with amazing casts like Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto and Ana de Armas- there is two-hour-long inspiration for concrete lovers. Brutalist set design is entirely supporting the future society which the film depicts.

The director Denis Villeneuve expands ‘Brutality’ as a ”harsher environment”. ”The world has gotten much more demanding.’’ In developing the architecture, it has to have that connection. The force of nature is against us, so the architecture needs to have the strength — the brutality — to stand up to it.

  • Parasite, 2019
    You might think that the house in the movie is real. In the movie, the home was designed by fictional architect Namgoong Heonja, but in reality, the stunning property at the center of the film actually a set based on a basic sketch drawn by the director Bong Joon-ho.

Despite the popular breaking down the fourth wall thing in cinematography lately, the feeling that you are looking at another frame from inside the screen like you are adding another hypothetical wall was one of the main feelings of the film. A key element to Parasite is the living room that has a long, glass wall that provides views to a garden – the setting of the film’s climax. The window was designed to meet the proportions of the ratio for shooting a widescreen picture.

“We created the window wall in accordance with the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and I wanted the large living room and garden to feel like a nice photograph on screen,” said Lee Ha Jun the production designer.

The staircases are one of the key visual elements of this film. This is emphasized by how the appearance of the neighborhoods gradually changes when the family endlessly descends from the rich neighborhood to the poorer one, from top to bottom. They wanted to show the increasing and suffocating density that reflects the class difference between elevated areas and lower ones.

  • Vivarium, 2019
    Although the atmosphere that initially sounded like The Truman Show eventually left itself in a disturbing claustrophobic tale of a couple trapped in the house of horror, the Vivarium film was intriguing in terms of questioning our urban and social lives. However, I bet that Jesse Eisenberg ​would like to be in Jim Carrey’s shoes.

It describes middle-class suburban becoming a prison of repetitive architecture and domestic mundanity as the main idea. And it does that in a very interesting way.

Aaaand cut! *angry director yells*
That’s all for this post.
If there’s a movie you haven’t seen, it’s your stay-at-home event for tonight. If you like it or have other suggestions for us, please let me know in the comments!

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