Film interiors have many functions: introduce us to protagonists, unveil the storyline or visually complement the central conflict. Architects enthusiastically examine design choices down to every detail since they know the visualiser, project year and its history. Three Orb architects will tell us about three films, the interiors of which are worth our attention. They have the same preferences so we tried to avoid any repetitions. We could not help but notice that most of the films are somehow connected with the issues of the future, artificial intelligence, and loneliness. We also tried to avoid spoilers but keep your eyes open.
The film designers did not try to follow general trends in the representation of the future but focused on the concept of comfort, namely our “soft comfort bubble” we never leave at home. This comfort depends not only on the interior but our loved ones. The film speculates on the affection of the protagonist for an artificial intelligence named Samantha. The important thing is that Samantha acts as an operating system — she has no body but a human voice.
The lovers of everything futuristic in sci-fi films may get a strange feeling watching Her. Interiors are more typical of Art Nouveau. Even the protagonist’s computer seems to be inserted into the photo frame. This highlights the idea that the film is actually about the present time, about the feeling of loneliness in the modern world.
One reviewer noted that “the melancholy in the movie is so strong that it seems as if the sun never fully rises and sets”. The colour choice, the soundtrack and the view of the city are essential for this melancholy. Theodore’s apartment was chosen due to its panoramic view. In this sense, Her resembles the film of Spike Jonze’s ex-wife Sofia Coppola – Lost in Translation. K.K. Barrett was the Chief Visual Director of both films.
It is also interesting how they depicted the city from the pedestrian’s point of view. Have you noticed that the protagonist does not even have a car? Taking away the noisy ads and traffic surrounding us daily, they said, “Oh, now we are stepping into the future (that we want).” This is a completely different approach than in such dystopian films like Blade Runner.
Most of the house shown in the movie is actually a hotel. The Juvet Landscape Hotel was created by the Norwegian company Jensen&Skodvin Architects. Although the film takes place in Alaska, this hotel is actually located in a remote area of Norway among rocks, forests, and water.
As in Her, the interiors are far from futurism. For example, the living room was shot outside the hotel. The private summer house designed by Jensen&Skodvin Architects complements the main film theme. The house and its elegant modern aesthetics are actually carved into the mountain, just like the materials of computers that have completely changed our modern world are carved out of rocks.
The film still has several spaces where the wild forest and the house are built into each other. Thus, the interior supports the question that artificial intelligence asks us: where is the line between natural and artificial? Mirrors deepen the search for an answer. Ex Machina Production Designer Mark Digby said, “We wanted to keep reminding the audience and everyone, including Caleb and Nathan, of this conflict.”
Stanley Kubrick is known for his reverent attention to details. His film 2001: A Space Odyssey literally set new standards in film production, becoming one of the first films with strategic product placement. The team working on the film invited manufacturers and designers of commercial products of the time, including IBM, Hilton Hotels, Parker Pens, Nikon, Kodak, etc. to create prototypes of their products in 2001. For example, they successfully predicted tablets, built-in furniture, devices that identify a person by voice or fingerprint.
Olivier Mourgue created “Djinn Chairs” not as part of the film production but the film made them so popular. The name “Djinn” refers to the Islamic mythological spirit able to change form from human to animal, thus repeating the “evolutional” theme of the film.
It is necessary to note the room, which the character gets in at the end of the film. It reveals the idea of the monolith, appearing at the beginning of the film in the scene with primates. The metaphor is so sophisticated that any attempt to describe is doomed to failure.
Most of the films in this list speculate on the future. Whether it is the distant future of intergalactic communities or the reality of tomorrow when artificial intelligence is beginning to play an essential role. Representing the future in films is important: this allows people to reflect on what they like and what they do not like in the modern world. At the same time, films about the present can be an excellent visualization of the values of the past era for future generations. And Yaroslav Shafinski picked up a few examples.
The Fountainhead remains the perfect image of everything that is wrong with the architect as a profession today. The film is based on the novel by Ayn Rand The Fountainhead (1943). The main idea of the novel is that only individualists change the world on their own. The protagonist is Howard Roark, a genius architect who does not compromise with the ignorant crowd. And the crowd consists of thoughtless consumers of traditions and eclecticism. The only problem is that the confrontation between modernism and Victorian eclecticism is very superficial, not to mention the absurdity of the main theses.
“Today, they say the Fountainhead is dead, but everywhere you look architects are portrayed as if they’re strange and special beings, somehow more than mortal. And their views are decidedly Roarkian. Frank Gehry, the most famous architect of our time, has said that denying the architect’s right to self-expression is like denying democracy. But democracy is the will of the majority, not the individual, and Ayn Rand hated democracy because she felt that it crushes personal freedom. When the lines between individualism and democracy blur, it’s safe to say that Rand’s ghost still haunts us.”
Ayn Rand wrote the script and indicated that the buildings of Howard Roark should be designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. But Wright rejected the offer to work on the film. He did not believe in Rand’s idea of the architect’s personal integrity. He was not interested in being part of a film in which architecture served as the “background theme of sexual violence.”1
Becoming a bestseller along with the film adaptation introduced people with the idea of the architect as an individualist and genius. We are only interested in the contemporary struggle of modernism with Victorian eclecticism. Modernism has become possible thanks to globalization, in particular, translations of texts about design and cooperation of architects in different cultures.
Star Wars is a huge saga with its own worlds and Wikipedia. Design and architecture are definitely worth our attention. Let’s look at the Death Star. Many architects have criticized its design for the lack of public spaces, ignoring comfort and safety. Cameron Sinclair called it another “technocratic game of the imperial ego.”
However, the spaceship remains an important cultural artefact. This allows us to trace how the introduction of the Death Star to the audience was designed. The enormous structure is repeatedly emphasized in the scenario and panoramic plans, but its perception is also improved by such spaces as a tunnel with a broken bridge. The way the scene when Luke and Leia run away from the guards was filmed has its significance. Showing it to the audience from many angles, the film gives a sense of the full scale of the Death Star. The bridge exists in a practically non-functional vertical shaft, indicating the size of the Death Star’s structure since it vertically connects what we imagine as hundreds or even thousands of floors.
Padme Amidala’s apartment was designed for Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and inspired by the works of Frank Lloyd Wright. We dive into a wide living room designed to encourage peaceful discussions, with a series of sofas of pastel colours and a great view of the city.
Wallace Corporation is creating a new generation of replicants. The office interior has inspired most discussions of architects. The popular architectural resource Archdaily conducted the research and found that the Wallace office was based on the draft project of the architectural studio Estudio Barozzi Veiga for the Neanderthal Museum in Spain. The studio allowed to use the idea, and Concept Designer Peter Popken adapted it to the interior of the corporate office. Modernist forms, water, the play of light and shadows cause awe as if you are a true believer found in some cathedral.
The chair on which Luv (Wallace’ assistant) sits at headquarters was designed by Pierre Polen in the 1960s. Chairs made of moulded foam and covered with fabric made him famous in the middle of the XX century thanks to the ability to clothe upholstered furniture in plastic forms.
If we compare the interiors of 2049 with the first film, extra attention to the details of the premises visual image catch the eye first. Some have noticed parallels between the atmosphere and colour palettes of the first anime film Ghost in the Shell (1995) and its sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004). In the first Blade Runner, the same attention was paid to the city itself, while the second film was dominated by orange and yellow tones with a characteristic atmosphere if everything was just a dream.
You can find both inspiration and reflection in this film list. We really like Japanese modernism, so Maksim Poliakov chose two films to show you this interior in detail. These films remind us of the importance of cooperation and exchange of knowledge in the early XX century with Japan, especially for the formation of the modernist movement.
Kubrick’s second film illustrates how the artistic setting of the characters’ environment strengthens the understanding of their world and their own attitude to this reality. Our format does not allow us to describe all the variety of interesting solutions, so we will take a closer look at several of them.
The film was shot in the London district called Thamesmead with blocks of high-rise buildings mostly built in the ’60s. The image of heavy concrete blocks leaves us with a sense of oppression and exclusion because of the association with housing built in the totalitarian Soviet countries (as in Ukraine, where it is still being built). The film’s architecture of residential areas and public institutions shows the distance between the state and the individual, characteristic of that period of time 2
The protagonist named Alex lives with his parents in an apartment with a “screaming” design – flowers, golden wallpapers, and shiny surfaces. Against the background of this harsh postmodern kitsch, Alex’s room with the predominant white colours looks more “modern”. Alex’s love for Beethoven and violence is perfectly emphasized by the interior of his room. A curtain with Beethoven’s portrait symbolically covers a window to the real world. Kubrick hints that “culture (screwed up and) has no moral influence on society. Hitler loved good music, and many of the best Nazis were quite sophisticated people, but that did not make them good people.”3
There are many pop art sculptures in the film, such as Herman Makkink’s dancing Jesus in Alex’s room or the Rocking Machine by the same artist in an elderly woman’s house. The house of this woman surprisingly combines distinctly Victorian furniture, sports equipment, green stucco on the ceiling, fireplace and pop-art pornographic pictures.
The interior of the milk bar Korova is identified by sculptures of women in pornographic poses, being a reference to Hatstand, Table and Chair by pop artist Allen Jones. It is worth noting that this apparent objectification of women in the film is rather convictive. “Masculinity” of Alex and his “friends” becomes a victim of its obsessions — whether the pleasure of acts of violence or anything else.4
The protagonist with the American name Tony lives in a spacious apartment over the nameless city of Japan. His mother died in childbirth, and his father has been touring with jazz concerts since Tony’s childhood. He was alone for as long as he knew himself. His wife began to heal the emptiness inside him. However, buying clothes was her way to heal the loneliness.
The film is based on Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name. Its specific third-person narrative with thoughts of protagonists and shooting when the camera slowly moves from left to right, unfolding the story as the book, creates a feeling of being detached. As in Her, the metaphor of loneliness in the form of a large window is central to the interior. 5 Tony’s apartment is framed by giant windows, creating a dizzy sense of space. The world beyond is visible but seems out of reach, reflecting the loneliness of those who are inside.
The film inspires reflection on the controversial influence of Japanese design on modernism. It is believed that when the western world discovered Japan in the XIX century, it encouraged it to create the basic principles of modernism. However, a more careful analysis shows a difficult situation where the exchange was in both directions.6
Japanese design is related to western modernism in many ways. It is not surprising that you can find one of the icons of modernism in the film — Cherner chair.
The film’s name refers to the text of the medieval Japanese writer Sei Shōnagon. She invented zuihitsu (a genre in which the author writes his stream of consciousness) long before James Joyce. The protagonist named Nagiko was born in Japan. Her mother is Chinese and her father is Japanese. She felt attached to body calligraphy since childhood. After a failed first marriage, she moved to Hong Kong where the film takes place. It shows us interiors reflecting the multiculturalism of the studied topic – language and body.
Her apartment in Hong Kong resembles a loft so loved by most filmmakers. It has many elements of Japanese and western design: Victorian wardrobe, Japanese ofuro tub, minimalist cube lighting, loft layout. All the time spent in Hong Kong is accompanied by the play of shadows on the walls. Shadows visually complement the story of the gap between language and body in the modern world, “We have confused problems for ourselves. This is fraught with even greater denial of the physical “I”, leading to the benefits of the non-physical world and provoking even greater dependence on the machine”, Greenway says.7.
His works are often called multimedia because of the many means of storytelling used and a huge number of references, for which some criticize him. For example, his reference to the painting Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by American artist Singer Sargent in the scene with red Chinese lanterns. In this way, Greenway explores how humanity describes itself and the world, that is, “through art (paintings, drawings, photographs, films), objects (architecture, sculpture), words (printing, calligraphy), sounds (speech, music), and bodies (dance, gender)”. 8.
- Film Friday: “The Fountainhead” (1949)
- В 1960-70 по всему западу гремели революции, а сам феномен насилия был в центре внимания.
- Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange. An interview with Michel Ciment
- Planka S. “Erotic, Silent, Dead: The concept of women in the films of Stanley Kubrick”
- Feeling Lonesome: The Philosophy and Psychology of Loneliness, стр. 186
- Myths of Modernism: Japanese Architecture, Interior Design and the West, c .1920–1940
- Peter Greenaway’s Postmodern / Poststructuralist Cinema, стр. 292
- Fleshing the Text: Greenaway’s Pillow Book and the Erasure of the Body