Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Masterful Settings

It is a chilly night in October. I'm sitting in my favorite chair, avoiding the sleep I need to function because I want to be awake (and I had two Pumpkin Spice Lattes - whoops?). Tonight I'm contemplating what makes a setting spectacular. My favourite novels have a sense of ambiance to them that I cannot deny. This ambiance, this flawless combination of physical space, mood, and atmosphere is magical. It can transfer from novel to script, and script to screen - with the right set designer/art director combo, of course.

There are several masters of setting that have me grovelling at the toes of their artistry. I don't have the energy to discuss in detail, but I'd love for you to add to this list.

1. Charlotte Bronte (can't figure out the funky "e" on this Mac) for "Jane Eyre". That story has a desolate quality that I can't shake. Its in my bones every time I sit down with the book. Bronte drills the hopelessness into you with every detail, right down to the greyness in the setting. It is masterful.

2. Edgar Allen Poe. My favourites are "The Black Cat", "The Cask of Amontillado" and ultimately "The Raven". The very words he uses ingrain the scratching of leafless tree branches into my core. I can feel the chilly wind. I can hear the oppressive fog. Its incredible.

3. Sofia Coppola. "Lost in Translation" was one of the best "set" films for me personally. Something about the isolation and alienness (is that a word?) that Charlotte experienced throughout the film, and the contrast between unfamiliar beauty and unfamiliar ugliness that came across was spectacular. It spoke to me. This is a film you love or hate, in my experience. I fall on cupid's side.

Three is the magic number for tonight. Please, add to my list. A novel, story or film where the setting blew you away.

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