Architecture in Cinema

Representing physical spaces in film

We've been thinking lately about architecture and cinema. Specifically we've been musing over how the representation of physical spaces in film (the way they are shot, framed, lit, constructed, edited...) can lead to the built environment becoming a cinematic protagonist or presence in its own right.

Architecture is so tied to our memories and experience of the world, impacting upon how we subjectively interpret our environment. And so, in skilled hands the articulation of space becomes a powerful tool in evoking an emotional response from the viewer.

At the will of the director, a location can become a welcome friend or a dangerous enemy... It might represent an external force upon a character, or personify their internal struggle... It can be the physical setting and the social context, a space in time or an imagined future!

Films that explore environments in a representative or symbolic way are often those most successful at encapsulating a feeling or impression of life. Think of the dismal grey world of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, all filing cabinets and pipes, metal and concrete; an oppressive, structural rendition of a rigid bureaucratic society.

Or perhaps consider the collapsible, experimental worlds of Michel Gondry; the places that fold in and out of one another like an elaborate pop-up book, morphing and merging the real with the fantastic.

As a studio that imagines worlds through films and imagery, we're so invested in finding new ways to capture architecture and in exploring the practical mechanisms that add atmosphere, intrigue, character, and context to a story setting.

So many films, directors, and genres come to mind when you begin to think about this topic: Blade Runner, Christopher Nolan, German Expressionism... So we've decided to make this a regular feature for discussion, and to share some of our favourite representations of architecture in cinema. Visit soon for more, and why not get in touch on twitter with your favourites so we can check them out too!


Michelle Collier

Date published

31 January 2014