Alfred Hitchcock by Leo Fuchs

Alfred Hitchcock by Leo Fuch

‘Architecture exists, like cinema, in the dimension of time and movement. One conceives and reads a building in terms of sequences. To erect a building is to predict and seek effects of contrast and linkage through which one passes (…). In the continuous shot/sequence that a building is, the architect works with cuts and edits, framings and openings (…).’ – Kester Tauttenbury

Having established the connection of architecture to all art forms in Part I of our interview with architect Guilhem Eustache and producer/director Dimitri de Clercq, we became curious about a very particular relationship in Part II: architecture and film. Not only are they both arts of the auteur, but they also have a close temporal relation and — most importantly — the language and structure employed are so alike in conveying rhythm, emotion and ambience that one could suggest a shared anatomy. Guilhem and Dimitri will tell you more…

Picture 1 by Jean-Marie Monthiers

Picture 1 by Jean-Marie Monthiers

Could you explain the connection between architecture and film in a bit more detail and specific to the Fobe House? Are we the movement or do we project movement onto the design?

GE: Both parts of the question are applicable, but I’m going to go into the latter part at a later stage. For me, architecture has clear ties to all of the arts, but the strongest ones are with cinema.

The movement of a human being in an architectural project is comparable to the movement of a camera in a film.

The idea of travelling zooms, specific framing and rotations are all elements that also exist in architecture. One of my main preoccupations in designing the house has been to assemble a series of architectural sequences, which you could compare to the narrative sequences found in a film. All these sequences together complement one another and, at the same time, have a very intimate link to the landscape around the house. It’s also important that the sequences are in coherence with the person in the space.

How do the different sequences profess themselves? Do they exist in different parts of the house?

GE: If you stand in front of the Fobe House and look at it as if you were looking at a painting, you won’t necessarily be able to understand how it works. It will reveal itself in your movement, sequence by sequence. For example, in picture two you can see a thick wall at the rear of the house, and you’ll discover that behind that wall there’s a small bridge that’s followed by a very long hallway. That in itself is already a sequence, a camera movement. When you walk on the small bridge, suddenly a very long interior hallway appears in your frame, which is similar to watching a transition of shots in a film. Yet once you’re inside there’ll be a moment where you’ll feel like stopping because of the possibilities that are open to you. You can either keep going straight on towards the exterior courtyard where you find the palm tree — that’s one way of travelling that one can take easily — or if you turn left then your gaze is caught by the living room space, which frames the swimming pool with the stairs that come out of it at the end with the Atlas and a sense of infinity behind it (picture three). That’s close to what you can define as a zoom movement in cinema.

Picture 2 - by Jean-Marie Monthiers

Picture 2 – by Jean-Marie Monthiers

Picture 3 - by Jean-Marie Monthiers

Picture 3 – by Jean-Marie Monthiers

So walking through the house is like the narrative unfolding in a film.

GE: The narrative that is suggested by me as an architect is like a screenplay of life — and within that you have different possible routes. It’s interactive — you have the possibility to go one way or the other way. And the sequences aren’t necessarily dogmatic in the sense that it’s first this and then that. It depends on what mood you’re in. Maybe one day you’d prefer moving towards the palm tree… In this particular architectural design there are certain moments where the areas are more static and certain moments where they’re much more dynamic. The dynamic spaces are hallways, stairwells or passages. The static places are the places you tend to live in, the living room for example, which is defined by fixed furniture.

Every person is his own director and actor in the movement that he creates.

So it’s actually better than a film because you’re the protagonist and have the power to operate as opposed to the story just playing out in front of you.

GE: I would tend to agree with you in the sense that there’s much more freedom in architecture. And regarding the second part of the question — whether we are the movement or whether we project movement onto the design — it’s a bit of both because movement can also be suggested by the use of symbols. Look at the two really big walls at the rear of the house in pictures four and five. It’s like an allegory that suggests the feeling of movement. It’s a reference to the sails of a sailing boat. Depending on the way you’re looking at the walls, maybe even more in picture six, which was taken closer to nightfall, you get the feeling that the house and the walls are gliding on the ground. Or, for example, the large stairs that come out of the swimming pool suggest a more mental journey — a state of daydreaming. It evokes the feeling that these stairs lead to the mountains, to the Atlas and infinity. So all that is very much on a symbolic level.

Picture 4 - by Jean-Marie Monthiers

Picture 4 – by Jean-Marie Monthiers


Picture 5 - by Jean-Marie Monthiers

Picture 5 – by Jean-Marie Monthiers

What films in your opinion have used or manipulated space in the most interesting of ways?

DdC: We spoke about this a lot because I’m a film producer and director and that’s why Guilhem and I speak about film a lot. We worked on this list together. I would say the films I chose are by directors whose films are all fascinating because space is what defines them and makes them unique. There’s a silent film called Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) by German director F.W. Murnau, which is a fascinating film. A Japanese director called Yasujirō Ozu made a film called Tokyo Story (1953). His work is really fascinating because he really shows you that he has a completely different way of constructing space, which is very different to the way Westerners define space in film. The way that he films characters in isolated spaces is radically different to the way we look at space. In doing this he often breaks rules of basic film continuity. Yet it works because he associates people and objects in a very different way, which probably makes a lot of sense in Japanese culture.

Can you give an example?

DdC: Well, the first thing that they teach you in film school is that if you film two characters speaking to each other in a space the camera is never supposed to cross the line between the two characters. Yet Ozu crosses it very often and you’re not confused. Film teachers tell you that if you do that, the viewer won’t know if the character is on the right or the left side of the screen. But when he does it he creates a lot of dynamic, because when he goes from one shot to another you’re much more conscious of a certain moment or situation. There’s even more tension between characters that are addressing one another.

And then of course you have Alfred Hitchcock with Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958), which are two movies that are very interesting because in Rear Window, for example, you’re isolated in one space. You’ve got the whole idea of voyeurism and looking into other people’s apartments. It creates all these interesting frames that you can also find in some moments of the architecture of a house. Then there are more recent movies like In the Mood for Love (2000) by Wong Kar-Wai, which Guilhem likes a lot. It’s a very sensual film and there are different moments where he shows a woman going up or coming down stairs, sometimes in slow motion, sometimes not, and this gives it a sense of rhythm.

GE: When I think of In the Mood for Love, I think of the very low narrow staircase that I created between the two large walls, the outside area and the rear of the house. There’s something very dynamic about that moment, which also has something romantic about it, the idea of going up and going down.

Picture 6 - by Jean-Marie Monthiers

Picture 6 – by Jean-Marie Monthiers

Rear Window by

Rear Window by

The ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

DdC: Exactly. When I look at the stairs that come out of the pool I always think of that Led Zeppelin song.

GE: There’s a French filmmaker that I like a lot because he uses space in very interesting ways, it’s Gaspar Noé. His work is quite controversial. He’s made Irréversible and more recently Enter the Void. In the latter, he brings the Tibetan Book of the Dead to life. The sets and spaces he creates in that film are a great mental trip. It’s very architectural.

There are moments where you feel that the place has turned into architectural models.

It’s very powerful.

Do you mean the buildings in the film or the structure of the way it’s made is architectural?

DdC: We were speaking about this yesterday; of course, there are amazing movie sets that are designed, like Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964) and 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968). Even some of the James Bond movies… but could you really define these amazing movie sets as architecture? Probably not, I mean they’re movie sets. In films you can only really speak about the architecture of a film. You can say that in a movie the scenes and the way the narrative is created is architecture in that sense.

Enter the Void by

Enter the Void by

Eyes Wide Shut by

Eyes Wide Shut by

Similar to the narrative unfolding in the Fobe House.

DdC: Exactly. And probably one of the filmmakers in whose films this is most striking is Kubrick because when you look at all of his movies you can pretty much speak of an architectural construction. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a film that Guilhem really likes a lot. You have this notion of rhythm, the way the space is constructed. More simply, you could take a more recent film like Full Metal Jacket, which has two basic volumes — the first half of the film and the second half of the film — so there’s a very strong architectural construction within it. You could even take his last film, which a lot of people don’t like but I like, Eyes Wide Shut (1999). If you look at it very carefully you can almost define that film architecturally, as being conceived of two main parts — the second part is a mirrored image of the first part. Dr Bill Harford, who is played by Tom Cruise, wanders through the movie and each place he goes to he, in a sense, goes to twice. You see the same space in the first half of the film and in the second part of the film — and the big orgy scene is the centre piece of the film. In that sense Eyes Wide Shut is an intimate journey that has a lot in common with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet Eyes Wide Shut is more of a personal, intimate journey and 2001 is more of a mental existential journey.

Mullholland Drive by

Mullholland Drive by

Citizen Kane - Image by

Citizen Kane – Image by

That makes a lot of sense.

DdC: There are a lot of films I think where the great filmmakers are very conscious of that. What I found very interesting about the link to the website that you sent us was that they always chose movies that take place indoors. But I think that you could also look at some movies for which the principal photography was done outside that also have a very architectural sense of space. One of them is The Tree of Life (2011) by Terrence Malick. The way he films space and landscape is very much conscious of the importance space has for a character. It’s much more universal and grander. One filmmaker that I also find very interesting is David Lynch.

I love David Lynch.

DdC: Take Mulholland Drive (2001) or Lost Highway (1997). He’s one of the filmmakers that I think really knows how to film, especially modern architecture, in a brilliant way. You see spaces in Lynch’s films, these sorts of modern California homes that are very apparent. It’s quite fascinating. It’s present in his first film Eraserhead (1977). Orson Welles‘ films are also interesting in that respect.

GE: I like the example of Orson Welles a lot because he has a tendency to dramatise spaces in many ways, which I would also like to achieve with my architecture through playing with shadows. If you look at The Trial (1962) — and of course Citizen Kane (1941) — but also Othello (1952), for example. In all these movies he’s very aware of that. And when I see it unfolding in a movie, it’s something that can feed architecture.

Interview by Christine Hogg

Images by collativelearning.comfilm.onet.plattheback.blogspot.combigthoughtsfromasmallmind.comliannespiderbaby.comwww.expadvice.comJean-Marie Monthiers

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