A study of design has been both a blessing and a curse, in that everywhere I go and in everything I see, I am analyzing the aesthetic and the execution from a design standpoint. Sitting in the doctor's office, for example, I critique the fabric choices on the furniture, and where they put the seams in the wallcovering. (Why would they put it there in the middle of the reception desk?) In restaurants, I take note of the path the servers need to take to and from the kitchen, and does it interfere with the flow of patron traffic? Do those waiting for a table have a comfortable place to stand or sit? Even at the airport, I'll marvel at small things like how the outlets for vacuums and floor polishers have been hidden from view. (But don't worry, I can turn this off when I visit your house! I never crtitique my friends' design choices unless they specifically ask).
This sensibility has also extended to one of the other artistic disciplines that I am crazy about, film. I find myself struggling to keep up with the story line if the setting is in an interesting and well-done interior. Little details just jump out at me and beg to be noticed. I see a lot of films in the theater, but at home, well, thank goodness for the pause button.
For example, I just pulled out the 2001 French film, Amelie again, and was charmed by the particularly Parisian flea market interior of her flat, especially her bedroom, where her dreaming is done. The colors, the furnishings, and the light are perfect to draw the viewer into Amelie's world. We suddenly and completely find ourselves in Montmartre.
I discovered some time ago that I seem to be drawn to filmmakers who pay more than the usual attention to the interiors in their films. One that comes to mind immediately is Jeremy Podeswa, the Canadian director. I saw his film, The Five Senses, when it was in theaters 11 years ago, and was struck by how the cool blue-green of the interiors was stitched throughout the film in a very fine thread. It also contributed to the overall theme of the film, that of the human senses. 5 characters represent one of each 5 senses, and in separate vignettes they are each tied together by a central tragedy at the heart of the plot. Every time I see this movie I catch another stroke of brilliance. The interiors are timeless, cool, waiting for resolution.
In 2008 Podeswa did a film adaptation of one of my all-time favorite books, Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. It was not a mainstream release, I just stumbled upon it at my local Blockbuster. Again, his interpretation of the interiors in the film was stellar. In the book, the study of a character named Athos was detailed lovingly by the poet Michaels. Podeswa was not only faithful to her description, he even filled in some of the blanks exactly as my mind had done in reading the book, adding little details and a quality of light that was pure genius.
Another filmmaker well-known for his manic attention to the quirky and wonderful interior sets in his movies is Wes Anderson. His 2001 film The Royal Tennenbaums is a prime example. The interiors of the Tennenbaum house are faded, vintage 1980’s New York, wonderfully staged and detailed, and standing alone would tell the tale of a past glory:
Then there is The Darjeeling Limited, released in 2008. I loved so much about this film, especially the interaction of the 3 siblings, the stunning Indian scenery, and of course, Anderson’s amazing sets. If you saw the movie, did you take note of the different train cars, and their color themes? This is pure Anderson at his best.
And finally, I just have to throw this in. I saw the old 1957 classic An Affair To Remember last Thanksgiving night. I adore Cary Grant, so of course I was distracted by his suavity, but who could overlook some of the interiors in this movie?!! I couldn’t find an image of the dress shop in the film, but there are some fantastic scenes in Deborah Kerr's apartment, which is furnished in over-the-top Mid-Century Nice-Girl style. Check out the green lamps!
Please write and tell me about memorable movie interiors that have struck you, I’d love to hear about some others!