The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962). Production designer Jean Mandaroux. Courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum für Film und Fernsehen.
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A behind the scenes look at international cinema is put on show in this fascinating exhibition celebrating production design, some of which is exclusive to Australian audiences. Kate McCurdy reports.
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents an exciting new exhibition, Setting the Scene: Film Design from Metropolis to Australia. Until mid April, this exhibition examines the great achievements in film design in a fascinating display of what goes on behind the scenes. The work of film production designers, art directors, set designers and film architects are displayed in detail, as the exhibition pays tribute to the artists behind seminal works of film from around the world.
A sense of place and space
Setting the Scene is focused on the sense of place and atmosphere of a film, and particularly the artists role in creating these spaces. ACMI’s Screen Gallery features more than 300 original sketches, storyboards and models from iconic films from international cinema, and is displayed in seven parts. These parts represent the different kinds of spaces in which the film’s world exists, namely Spaces of Power, Private Spaces, Labyrinth Spaces, Transit Spaces, Stage Spaces, Virtual Spaces and Location Spaces.
Dante Ferretti. The Name of the Rose (Jean-Jacques Annaud, 1986). Courtesy of Dante Ferretti
Setting the Scene is based on the German exhibition Moving Spaces: Production Design + Film originally produced by the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin. ACMI has significantly expanded Moving Spaces with two new sections to represent the work of some of Australia’s internationally acclaimed production designers. The Virtual Spaces and Location Spaces sections of the exhibition have been added and include exhibits from Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008) and are exclusive to Australian audiences.
Over 80 films are represented across the exhibition featuring the work of more than 30 internationally acclaimed production designers, including Ken Adam, Anna Asp, Dante Ferretti, Frank Schroedter, Robert Heath and Alex McDowell. German production designer Erich Kettelhut is the most heavily represented in the exhibition, with work from nine of his films on display, including work from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927).
Australian production design
Seven of the Australian production designers and art directors, including Owen Patterson (Matrix trilogy and Speed Racer), Roger Ford (Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), Chris Kennedy (The Proposition and forthcoming release The Road), Stephen Curtis (beDevil and Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy), Catherine Martin (Australia), Karen Murphy (Australia), George Liddle (Dark City) and Steven Jones-Evans (Ned Kelly).
Dir Andrew Adamson and PD Roger Ford on set. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Andrew Adamson, 2008). Production designer Roger Ford. © DISNEY/WALDEN. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, NARNIA, and all book titles, characters and locales original thereto are trademarks and are used with permission.
On set: Baz Luhrmann’s Australia
One of the major attractions of the exhibition is the exclusive display of the work from Baz Lurhmann’s Australia, by double Academy Award winning Australian production designer, Catherine Martin, and her team including Art Director Karen Murphy. This section has been curated by ACMI with Murphy, and features design concepts, sketches, models and research material as well as the living room set of the Faraway Downs homestead from the film.
Catherine Martin with the Australia Faraway Downs Homestead. Australia (Baz Luhrmann, 2008). Production designer Catherine Martin. Image credit: Douglas Kirkland.
Speaking at the opening of Setting the Scene, Murphy reflected on her experience working on Australia: ‘It’s incredibly rewarding working as an art director on a Baz Luhrmann film, because the art department is unique. The production designer, Catherine Martin, is responsible for the images that inform and amplify the story from the research stage through to the final days of post production. The truth is in the strength and layering of the early images you see here in the gallery, and they end up on the screen,’ she said.
‘I’ve loved being involved in this exhibition,’ she adds. ‘It’s a wonderful celebration of the contribution of the talented pool of artists, from set designers, model-makers, set dressers, digital 3D modelers and craftspeople brought together by the production designer to help create those final, rich and memorable worlds we experience in Australia and in all of the films featured here at ACMI.’
A number of interviews with selected Australian production designers have been produced in conjunction with the Australian Film, Television Radio School (AFTRS) in which the designers speak about their work. These interviews are screened in the Screen gallery as part of the exhibition.
From Moving Spaces to Setting the Scene
The original exhibition, Moving Spaces: Production Design + Film was first exhibited in Berlin in 2005 and has travelled to significant venues such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles (2006) and the Hong Kong Film Archive (2007). Apart from the Australia section, the works in Setting the Scene are from the collection of the Deutsche Kinemathek, supplementing international loans from Cinémathèque Française, the Bibliotheque du Film and the Svenska Filminstitute archives among others, as well as material from the private collections of production designers.
The range of films displayed in the exhibition is signified by the title of ACMI’s exhibition: Setting the Scene: Film Design from Metropolis to Australia. Some of the oldest films in the exhibition are significant examples of German cinema such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) and Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927), while the most recent film is Australia (Luhrmann, 2008) and the forthcoming release of John Hillcoat’s The Road (2009).
Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927). Production designers Otto Hunte, Karl Vollbrecht, Erich Kettelhut. Courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum für Film und Fernsehen
A highlight of the exhibition is the large-scale model of the ultra-modern house from Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle (1958). This comedy won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1959, and one can experience the detail of the film’s set close up with this beautiful model, complete with the dachshund in the driveway.
Other films featured in the exhibition include three Stanley Kubrick films, Dr. Strangelove (1964), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980); as well as The Apartment (1960), Cabaret (1972), Alien (1979), The Cat in the Hat (2003), Dogville (2003), The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Terminal (2004).
Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2003). Production designer Peter Grant. Courtesy of Zentropa Entertainments3 ApS
For more information about the exhibition, including the Setting the Scene poster competition, visit the ACMI website.
Setting the Scene: Film Design from Metropolis to Australia
4 December 2008 – 19 April 2009
ACMI Screen Gallery
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Federation Square, Melbourne
Admission fees apply
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