production lighting

Words and images are able to move or inspire people. Cinema lives out of both of them — the words uttered by the actors, the shots and scenes created by the production and captured by wise cameras. However, the set of a movie is not merely made up of the scenery, the furniture, objects or rooms designed. Whether you have or not noticed, lighting is a key feature in production design, the department responsible for the overall visual look of the production. Lighting defines the mood, the atmosphere of a movie, and it is as important as lighting design in our own home. It will subreptitiously tell you what to feel and to think.


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This time, we chose to talk about The Grand Budapest Hotel, the debonair Wes Anderson film of 2014 that swept away audiences and took several Academy Awards, especially those concerning the aesthetics of cinema. Apart from the irresistible and slightly comedic screenplay, adapted from works by Stephan Zweig, The Grand Budapest Hotel displays the typical idiosyncrasies of a Wes Anderson movie. It is full of light, color, background music, flow of movement, plot twists and small details that are eye candy. Today, we will talk about the lighting fixtures chosen by the production designers.


In other to depict a fictional world, one must create a fictional world. That was the aim of production designer Adam Stockhausen. Chandeliers, sconces and table lamps also play an important part in this. The classic ornamented sconces at the entrance of the Hotel are reminiscent of an older time. The yellow light that it sheds creates an almost vintage ambiance, opalescent and intimate. It is also very nostalgic, but the film does not refer to any culture or country in particular. Therefore, it is like a collective memory that speaks to each one of us. In addition, we catch a glimpse of the chandelier at the entrance of the Hotel. We may guess sumptuousness.

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Balance and symmetry is essential to Wes Anderson. Each scene should be filmed so that the camera would stand at the center of it, exactly in the middle. This kind of graphic geometry is somethings enhanced by resorting to lamps that hedge the scene.

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Even Madame D. (played by actress Tilda Swinton) is “hedged” by two sconces!

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Other times, lighting fixtures such as chandeliers are used to define the center of the scene. Every aspect is in line with the chandelier or the pendant, to its right or to its left. The kind of angle and consequent shot that Wes Anderson intends to produce emanates simplicity and intoxication. And, at the same time, the balanced geometry of it makes the movie pleasing to the eyes. It is impossible not to be bewitched.

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This more intimate shot of Agatha (portrayed by Saoirse Ronan), while she is baking, with a pendant lamp above her head, it seems as though she was the center of everything. Everything stems from her — the baking is her creation, but the whole scene comes from, is created around her. The disposition of the scene and the importance of the character entirely depends of the lighting fixture. We can understand how important she is. On the other hand, the warm dim light implies there might be a secret behind the baking.

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Just as well, the lamp directly above the head of the concierge perpetuates the geometry of the idiosyncratic aesthetics of Wes Anderson.

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There is always warmth throughout the film. There is always a smile and heartiness, even at the harder times. There is something about Grand Budapest Hotel that makes us smile, even though it depicts a conflictive society, an inexistent place, and a world view that is disenchanted disappointed with the modern man, despite all the enchantment of the film itself.
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There a sense of unworldliness and constant amazement. Lighting contributes greatly to that, since it helps create the right ambiance. Not any lighting fixture will bring to being a authentic, intimate, nostalgic and, at the same time, magical, such as this. Wes Anderson and his team make great use of lighting fixtures and design. Fans were so impressed that all around the blogosphere were posted ideas to decorate your home inspired by this movie. The Grand Budapest Hotel overflows with elegance, design, art deco, and a kind of charm that fascinates us. And it is due to the light it sheds.

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