During the screening of the Lumière brothers film Arrival Of A Train At Ciotat (1895), the audience bolted to the door, soiled with fear and panic, under the illusion that the train running across the screen in front of them was actually going to drive into them. It maybe the stuff of urban legends, but if anything at all, such an emotional reaction unveils cinema’s power to make the audience surrender to the illusions of reality that it concocts. The art of production design in cinema is about creating the illusory visual worlds within which narratives unfold, and it goes to painstaking lengths in detailing every aspect of such worlds to make us believe in its reality. It also defines the mood, atmospherics and emotional texture of films. However, its role barely concludes there.
In certain films, the visual elements in design — the architecture, colour palettes, lighting and textures — coalesce in creative ways to reflect the interior, emotional states of characters. Filmmaker Luis Buñuel once said, “Cinema will serve as translator of architecture’s boldest dreams” and that “it provides a risk free environment in which to explore the possibilities of emotional transference”. Since directors are able to practice architecture without the rules and regulations of gravity and life, architecture becomes the architecture of meaning. Because of this, film becomes a very accessible medium for exploring emotionally embodied architecture. By inhabiting the character’s psyche, cinematic design becomes a crucial tool of characterization.
The following series of films is centered on production design, but looks beyond its rudimentary functions in order to explore its nature as visual summarisation, a mode of expressing a character’s inner psychological architecture. The list is inclusive of films across the spectrum: highly stylized films which are more expressionistic in nature and draw more attention to themselves with their use of dramatic lighting and exaggerated sets, and films with a realistic design that employ natural, often environmental settings that symbolically distill the psychologies of the individuals that journey through them.
To further illustrate the ambition of our curatorial strategy, the venues for the screenings will simulate the primary environment or setting present with each film, giving the audience an opportunity to participate in an immersive experience.