Movie set aesthetics we’re enamored with
When we think of storytelling we think of the obvious: words. Words that are shared to recall an event with a friend, words that are written into a journal for one’s future self, words that are typed in courier, size 12, single spaced on the script of a film. The power of storytelling is found in its ability to evoke emotion and move an audience. Film is known best for this power of storytelling.
When we think of storytelling we don’t always think of the less obvious: imagery. Color, shape, size, location, lighting, timing; things that evoke memory. When highlighting a scene that reminds the viewer of something they have experienced, the emotion arising within them can be far more powerful than the former. So here’s an ode to the most inspiring movie sets we love.
Wes Anderson – French Dispatch (2021)
Following many journalists on their journey, the French Dispatch sets out to capture the essence of Paris for a Kansas City-based publication. Hence the name, the film is inspired by French culture and style. The real highlight of this movie is the various sets constructed by Anderson and his team: a publication office, journalist homes, an art gallery, a jail, and a chef’s kitchen. All of these unique spaces were inspired by the characters they contained and were constructed similar to a dollhouse. The almost “thrown together” styles of each set and scene molds perfectly together in this film, serving us an inspiring aesthetic of eclecticism.
Like all of his other films, Anderson recruited symmetry to draw in the viewer’s eyes and point out details only translated visually. He continues this emphasis on visual cues with the elaborate costumes for each character. Almost like a uniform, the costumes of each character serve as a compliment to the sets build and add another visual element to the film’s aesthetic. He proclaims the biggest symbols in the smallest of details. The pastel and muted tones of Anderson’s film evoke an almost whimsical feeling within the viewer, carrying along the playful script.
Stanley Kubrick – 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
A connection between the past and the future, this film follows a monolith that travels through time and leads mankind on a journey through space and philosophy. Kubrick represents the marvels of the universe with his lavish, bright colors and shapes. Kubrick, similar to Anderson, utilizes symmetry throughout his movie to provoke a pleasing visual identity for the viewer. Everything from the actor’s spacesuit to the blanket on the bed of the ending scene was well thought out. The visual cues of 2001 gave audience’s a glimpse of the futuristic styles of Kubrick’s imagined future, creating an inspiring aesthetic of postmodernism.
Luca Guadagnino – Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Taking place in a secluded 17th century Italian villa, Call Me By Your Name tells a love story in the summertime of 1983. Full of antiques, soft palettes, and all the linen you could desire, Guadgnino’s Call Me By Your Name serves us all the romance. The elegant and crafted set tells the audience life is tranquil, that the simplicity of summer is to live it. Velvet armchairs, pattern curtains, and gold accents all translate the warming sense of home, highlighting the film’s Cottagecore aesthetic.
Guadgnino, changing details from the original book, felt the story would be better fit taking place near Crema in the Lombardy hills in 1983 rather than 1988. This is largely because he spent some time in the area when he was young. Drawing largely on his own experiences, Guadgnino fed off his romanticism for the place. Each scene more picturesque than the former, he left the audience chasing curiosity and appreciation for each scene.
As all these directors thought outside the confines of traditional storytelling. Creating an experience for the audience, these films drew heavily upon the use of color, shapes, textures, and lighting. Visual storytelling, both pleasing to the eye and mind, can ignite inspiration in the viewer, leaving a far longer lasting impression than words. It harnesses the true power of storytelling: emotion.
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