Christopher Nolan’s historical retelling of Dunkirk with 300,000 Allied troops trapped by the Germans in 1940, definitely made it to our list of top movies not only for set design but for the story and direction. The team actually rebuilt the long narrow pier where soldiers gathered and waited for boats to carry them away. Production Designer Nathan Crowley was committed to making this movie look as realistic as possible but also took enough artistic license to capture our attention. The entire movie was a physical feat; the weather was a challenge and battling the tides of the English Channel was obviously no joke. Crowley said, “Between the ships, rebuilding the mole, pulling real cockpits into old Russian planes and flying Spitfires into the sea for real, it was tough. It was physically tough. This is the most physical film I think we’ve ever done.” Crowley sourced all the necessary ships and planes to create a realistic recreation of what happened on Dunkirk all those years ago.
Murder on the Orient Express
Kenneth Branagh directed the revamped version of Agatha Christie’s iconic crime novel (which had first been made in 1974 with stars like Alberty Finney, Lauren Bacall, and Sean Connery) with a slew of superstar names and a look to match them. BAFTA-winner Jim Clay came on board as production designer and actually built the entire train from scratch. Clay said, “The 1974 version and the television versions that preceded us were quite ornate, art nouveau, slightly Victorian, with floral patterns, etched on the windows and into the fabrics. Ken’s style is more minimalist, so we edged ours toward art deco and lines that were more geometric rather than floral. I was very conscious of keeping the backgrounds opulent and rich but not distracting.” Clay was able to bring the experience of being on the Orient Express to life for us with intricate marquetry, precise lines, and very decadent décor.
Sofia Coppola is a master when it comes to creating narratives that pull you in and linger on long after you’ve left the cinema. The Beguiled is a Southern Gothic that she has set during the American Civil War. With an almost all female cast, costume design took the centre stage and was able to set the tone for the film. The women of the film are dressed in a collection of pastel-hued, conservative yet almost dream-like day dresses with lots of plaids, stripes, and calico patterns. The movie is set in a haunted-looking Victorian plantation house with lots of creaky floors and an eerie sense of something about to happen. We loved the way Coppola created a world within a world using Gothic design, furniture, and décor.
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