Whether sets are lavish and opulent, or reticent and plain – production design determines a film’s look and atmosphere. It shapes what is visually typical for a film.
Entitled “Schauplätze – Drehorte – Spielräume. Production Design & Film“ (“Settings – Locations – Scenes. Production Design & Film”), the Retrospective of the 55th Berlin International Film Festival (February 10 – 20, 2005) will be dedicated to the profession and impact of production design.
“Production designers are much more than just set builders”, Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick comments on the Retrospective 2005. “They are genuine artists who substantially influence the overall appearance of a film. At first glance the effects are often not evident, yet their work is of utmost importance for communicating dramatic action.” Production designers supply the visual key for the mood and story of a film. They bring out individual emotions and social conditions as well as accentuate what is mysterious or menacing.
The Retrospective of the Berlinale 2005 will be structured around five topics that reveal various mechanisms and aspects of production design. The series will encompass 45 international films from the past 65 years. Stanley Kubrick’s films, so formative for style, have been reserved a special place in the programme.
The topic of “Interiors” is devoted to inner worlds and private realms. A compelling example for this was created by Rolf Zehetbauer for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss (Veronika Voss, FRG, 1981/82). And in the interior designed for Mike Nichols’ film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (USA, 1966), Richard Sylbert succeeded in exposing the inner conflicts of the academic couple Taylor/Burton.
Under the heading “Transit”, films will be presented in which cinematic space has become a metaphor. In Ingmar Bergman’s film Tystnaden (The Silence, Sweden, 1962/63), production designer P. A. Lundgren created permeable spaces, and so made the “silence” so relevant in the film audible and estrangement visible. In 2001: A Space Odyssey (Great Britain/USA, 1965–68) Stanley Kubrick’s view on humanity’s development found a counterpart in the production designs of Ernest Archer, Harry Lange and Anthony Masters.
The section “Power” will include films such as Gattaca (USA, 1997) by Andrew Niccol. In it Jan Roelfs has subtly succeeded in reflecting via the architecture and design what is so threatening about totalitarian structures. In the sets for Billy Wilder’s masterpiece The Apartment (USA, 1960), Alexandre Trauner translated a world of hierarchies and dependencies into three-dimensional space.
The space lying between reality and illusion becomes apparent in the category “Stage”. For instance, in E la nave va (And the Ship Sails On, Italy/France, 1983), Dante Ferretti created an artificial sea out of sheets of plastic because Federico Fellini had not wanted a “real sea” in his film. In K. Efimov’s constructions, Grigori Alexandrov’s comedy Vesna (Spring, USSR, 1947) becomes life’s double – and life, the film’s double.
In “Labyrinths”, films will be screened which exhibit an interplay between narrative structures and spatial constellations. Endless corridors and bewildering spatial arrangements turn into mazes. Such is the case, for example, in Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining (Great Britain/USA, 1978–80), for which Roy Walker was the production designer. A labyrinthine form can also be encountered in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Strategia del ragno (The Spider’s Stratagem, Italy, 1969/70), a reflection on betrayal and guilt for which production designer Maria Paola Maino found a beguiling location.
Curated by Ralph Eue, the Retrospective of the 55th Berlin International Film Festival is being organized by the Filmmuseum Berlin – Deutsche Kinemathek under the supervision of director Hans Helmut Prinzler. Screenings will be held at the CinemaxX at Potsdamer Platz. A book on the Retrospective is being published in German by Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin: “Schauplätze – Drehorte – Spielräume. Production Design & Film”. Lectures and discussions are to accompany the programme at the Filmmuseum Berlin. Moreover, from February 10 to June 19, 2005, the exhibition “Moving Spaces” will be on display.
The Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt/Main will present its exhibition “Stanley Kubrick” at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin from January 19 to April 11, 2005. Further synergies can be expected to arise during the Berlinale Talent Campus which will also be focusing on the topic of production design.
November 15, 2004