I am the sort of person who is often distracted by the art work in films and TV shows- sometimes trying to peer around corners and characters to get a better look. I saw Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer recently, and was mesmerised by the large abstract paintings in the atmospheric house by the sea.
If you haven’t seen Ghost Writer, this is a really well-written review in the New Yorker, that doesn’t give too much of the plot away.
I was unable to discover if these paintings are by an artist or if they were made by the art director specifically for the film, but I did learn that the stunning ocean views from the beach house in Massachusetts were in fact fabricated. The house, which I had taken to be an architecturally designed holiday house owned by someone rich and/or famous, was a set constructed for the film and the windows were merely green screens, with the views added in later. The location shoots were done in Germany and Denmark, as Polanski was avoiding the US due to a crime dating from 1977 where he was tried for the sexual assault of a minor. He entered into a plea bargain that meant he only had to undergo time in a psychiatric hospital, but he fled when it seemed he would be given further jail time. The law finally caught up with him in Zurich and he finished the film while under house arrest. The case has now been resolved. I feel a bit conflicted about seeing a film directed by a man convicted of statutory rape- although the girl/woman has said publicly that she has forgiven Polanski and had requested that the further charges be dropped, so perhaps I can forgive him too?
In films, production designers are responsible for the look of a film, in relation to its sets. They would be the ones to choose the art works, as well as books, furniture and other props on the set. I often find myself struggling to read the titles of books in the bookcase or on the coffee table in films and on TV – often an impossible task, which makes me feel sorry for the art director or props master who has so carefully selected all the props. I also get upset when they blow up things, especially vintage cars, Mixmasters and the like– it seems so wasteful. I look forward to the day they can do this entirely with tiny models or CGI. In fact maybe there could be a new job on the movie set- waste reduction supervisor.