Tag Archives: Vertigo

The Five Year Engagement

The past two weeks have been very satisfying ones for me regarding movies.  They’ve been so good in fact, that I’m inspired to write!  I haven’t written in too long.  Last week I got to watch Vertigo on the big screen at an outdoor park’s cinema night.  I feel like I mention this in every post, but Vertigo is my favorite movie.  So, I’m happy with any chance I get to watch it, but to see it on the big screen is magnificent!  Last night I watched The Five Year Engagement.  The story was a good one; it followed a couple, Tom and Violet – played by Jason Segal and Emily Blunt- from San Francisco, California to Ann Arbor, Michigan and gave the audience a chance to see some memorable architecture and lovely interiors along the way.

While in San Francisco, Tom and Violet attend a wedding at the park by the Palace of Fine Arts.  The Palace was originally built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition.

The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California. Bernard Maybeck, architect. 1915

The Palace is also seen in Vertigo when Scotty and Judy pass it during a walk.

Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak as Scotty and Judy at The Palace of Fine Arts in Vertigo

After San Francicso, we next visit the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  There are some very pretty views of the campus in Spring and in Winter.  I’ve also found a great flickr account (by cseeman) that shows them filming on campus at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.   http://www.flickr.com/photos/cseeman/5787477908/in/photostream/.

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business building on the University of Michigan's campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In The Five Year Engagement, Violet goes to the University of Michigan to study psychology.  The Ross building, built in 2004, served as Violet’s department building.

My favorite bit of production design in the movie, however, was the use of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Palmer House.  It was used as Violet’s professor’s house and truly is in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Palmer House at night.

Violet’s professor, played by Rhys Ifans, lives in a Frank Lloyd Wright house, although no one mentions this directly in the film.  His character, Winton, as in real life, is Welsh.  This is mentioned, and I liked the connection.  Wright’s parents were Welsh, and his architecture was often influenced by this heritage.

Winton, played by Rhys Ifans, lives in the Palmer House.

The Palmer House was built for William Palmer and Mary Warton Shuford in 1950.  Both graduates of the University of Michigan, the Palmers became familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright’s work upon seeing the Affleck House in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  (The Affleck House was featured in a Chrysler commercial.)  William Palmer was a professor of economics at the University of Michigan.  What a perfect house to use for Winston’s home!  The Palmers lived in the house for over 50 years.  Since 2009, the house has been owned by Jeffery and Kathryn Schox.  Again, both graduates of the University of Michigan, they divide their time between Ann Arbor and San Francisco – like Tom and Violet in the movie!  Connections between real life and movie sets like this are fantastic.  I love learning these sort of facts like a detective.

Tom, Violet, and Winton in the Palmer House, seated on and surrounded by, Wright designed furniture.

In the film, we are shown exterior shots and interiors of the living room, mostly at night.  We also get to see downtown Ann Arbor covered in snow.

Tom and Violet in snow covered Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Besides enjoying the great background locations in The Five Year Engagement, I also liked Violet’s handbag and wardrobe!  She has a classic brown saddle bag that she carries throughout the movie and I like how they often had her dressed in reds.

I liked Tom and Violet's wardrobes. Especially Violet's red coat and brown leather bag.

Tom and Violet ...and that handbag again!

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The Dragon Tattoo and Swedish Wallpaper

When this film started, I had no way of knowing how much I would get wrapped up in it!  (I had a similar experience with the book too.)  The story is excellent, the acting is amazing, but it was the interesting British and Swedish decorative arts and parallels to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (one of my favorite things to talk about) that made me into a full-on fanatic about this movie.

First, let’s start with the decorative arts.  This movie is filled with design.  (Oh, and I just want to say that I’m not going to spoil anything …the story is too good for me to deprive anyone of that suspense!)  The story revolves around a wealthy Swedish family, the Vangers, so of course they live in some fabulous buildings.  The family’s main home, is so grand and austere, you would think they were royalty.

Erstaviks castle in Nacka Municipality, Sweden, that played the part of the Vanger family home.

When we are introduced to the Vanger son’s home we get a glimpse of modern design.  Martin Vanger’s home was supposed to have been built in 1979, and is unlike any other space we visit in the movie.

Martin Vanger's house

The plot centers around a journalist who is brought in to investigate a long unsolved the murder of one of the Vanger children, Harriet Vanger.  His investigation begins as he is hired by the patriarch of the family, Henrik Vanger.  Henrik received a framed pressed flower every year for his birthday, just as Harriet had given him, every year, when she was alive.

Every year for his birthday, Henrik receives a pressed flower in a frame. Uhh ...he's pretty old.

While researching the family and unsolved crime, the journalist, Mikael Blomqkist, stays on the family estate in a small cabin, down the road from Martin Vanger.  It is here that we see some historic designs.  The wallpaper in this cabin is by the Swedish (born Austrian) architect and designer, named Josef Frank (1885-1967).  Frank’s work in architecture, and especially in furniture, textile and wallpaper design had a profound impact on the Swedish Style of the mid 20th century.  But this so-called Swedish style did not begin with Frank.  It  began around the time of his birth in the 1880s with William Morris (1834-1896) in England. As William Morris shaped the public taste of Victorian England, he influenced a movement that was spreading across all of Europe.  The Arts and Crafts Movement stressed the importance of handmade craftsmanship and an appreciation for nature.  (To sum up the movement in far too few words!)  These beliefs can be clearly scene in his wallpaper.  Creating in the traditional style, William Morris’ wallpapers were made from vegetable dyes and used the hand woodblock technique.

William Morris' "Daisy" wallpaper, 1864

William Morris and the British Arts and Crafts Movement directly influenced the Swedish painter and interior designer, Carl Larsson (1853-1919).  He, in following Morris (he was 20 years Morris’ junior), created an artistic house.  Larsson and his wife, Karin, filled their home with their artistic touches.  Where previously only the “fine arts,” painting and sculpture, would have been used to decorate a house, they painted and decorated walls, furniture and textiles.  The Larssons also documented their entire house in the book, Ett hem, published in 1899.  Their use of Swedish folklore and their belief in the beauty of nature can be seen in every print Larsson put into the book.

"In the Corner" by Carl Larsson, 1894 and published in Ett hem, this is a view of the drawing room. Notice the hand painted stove to the right. It is covered in botanical prints, similar to Morris' "Daisy" pattern wallpaper. (This artwork is now at The National Museum Sweden.)

With the publishing of this book, and the introduction of his style and views on home life to the Swedish people, Larsson helped to create a modern Swedish style.  (I do also need to point out Larsson’s debt to the English illustrator Kate Greenaway and her depiction of English childhood surrounded by Queen Anne architecture.)

Here is another view of the stove in the drawing room, with painter, carpenter and Carl Larsson himself in the mirror.

Okay, okay, back to the movie!!  So, with that brief history of Morris and Larsson in mind, imagine my excitement, when Blomkvist walks into his cabin and we see a view of the paper covering the walls.

Josef Frank wallpaper in Blomkvist's cabin

Josef Frank would have been familiar with Larsson and Morris’ work.  And as a last generation of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he held on to the love of brightly colored, stylized natural motifs and it shines here brightly in his botanical print wallpaper with a print called Vårklockor.

Josef Frank's wallpaper pattern, Vårklockor, from the 1940s. It was manufactured by the Norrköping Wallpaper Factory.

This is such an interesting choice to me.    In reconciling the design against the movie’s plot, it is curious that the wallpaper put up in a Vanger cabin was designed by Josef Frank, a man of Jewish descent.  (Part of the story behind the Vanger family is its involvement with the Nazi party …and I’ll leave it at that.  Like I said, I don’t want any spoilers!)

Another view of Blomkvist's cabin, with Josef Frank's wallpaper.

There is another scene in which we see this wallpaper, but this time it has a dark background.  Also, the bench in this scene caught my eye.

Once again we see Frank's Vårklockor pattern, along side an Eastlake style bench.

Up close, as seen below, the wallpaper is very vibrant.  But,  I like the aged look it has in the film.  Still, the pattern is distinct, and it is certainly Josef Frank’s design.

Josef Frank's Vårklockor pattern wallpaper with a black background.

The bench, in the picture above, where Lisbeth Salander is seated, will again take us back to England.  And, I can’t imagine how I made it this far into my story without mentioning Lisbeth!  She is a fantastic heroine, and I think one of my favorites.  Curiously enough, one of Carl Larsson’s daughters was named Lisbeth, and is featured in the prints of Ett hem.  ( I love little coincidences like that.)  I can’t say for certain whether the bench is Swedish or English, but it definitely finds its provenance in England.  As part of the firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., designer and architect, Philip Webb (1831-1915), created the Morris Adjustable Chair in 1866.

The "Morris Adjustable Chair" from Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., by Philip Webb, 1866.

Notice the similarity in the chair rail, arms and legs of the Morris Adjustable Chair to the bench Lisbeth sits on …and yet there are differences.  The bench takes its slimmer silhouette from the Firm’s Sussex line.

The Firm's Sussex chair line, designed 1865.

Yet, that still doesn’t quite cover it.  I think the bench we see in the movie was very much influenced by Charles Eastlake (1836-1906).  And his influence too would have been felt by Carl Larsson.  Eastlake, an English architect and designer was William Morris’ contemporary.  His book, Hints on Household Taste, published in Great Britain in 1868, presented the idea that the decor of a home should have a continuity in style.  His ideas not only help spread the word of the Arts and Crafts Movement, but it would have influenced Larsson in the decorating of his family home too.

This is an American example of the Charles Eastlake style, and I think a very close look-alike to the bench in the film. (Circa 1880 from D. Dexter's Sons, it is now a part of the Brooklyn Museum's collection.)

Finally, the parallels to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo gave me chills!  Not in a, “oh I’ve already seen this but it’s still great” kind of way, but in a way where new life was brought into a mystery and love story so dark, it chills you to your core beliefs.  Henrik Vanger bears a resemblance to Jimmy Stewart’s main character in Vertigo, Scottie Ferguson.  And just like Scottie, Henrik finds himself so entranced with a dead woman, his niece, that he has put his life on hold trying to find her and bring her back to life.  It is the botanical prints that he loved so dearly as a gift from Harriet that now haunt him on a yearly basis …and also offers the production designers of this movie a brilliant reason to incorporate such historically charged botanical wallpaper into the set design.

There is a necklace that plays a role in the story of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and while it is not as central to the story as the necklace in Vertigo is, it is still a game changer.  The necklace Cecelia (Henrik’s niece) is wearing at one point is the same necklace that Harriet is wearing in a photograph, this brings back Michael’s memory, just as Carlotta’s necklace brings back Scottie’s.  Michael is reminded of his childhood, when his nanny was the same Harriet Vanger that he is now searching for, and two women’s identities are woven together into one.

Sources:

The Arts & Crafts Companion, Pamela Todd, Bulfinch Press, 2004

Carl and Karin Larsson: Creators of the Swedish Style, Michael Snodin and Elisabet Stavenow-Hidemark, Bulfinch Press, 1997

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Filed under Foreign Film, In the Cinema, Modern Film