Minimalism originated as an art movement post the second world war in America where it centered around the idea that art should have its own reality rather than be the imitation of another object. However, as this movement continued to develop, it adapted itself to various forms of design, architecture, and even lifestyles. The movement focuses mainly on the basic necessities required when representing something or experiencing something. This movement was adopted in the film industry as well, however, it is often harder to understand the minimalist setting in a movie. Minimalism in films is seen in various ways, ranging from its sound, visuals, plot, story, acting, and design. Often, the set (or interior) design of the film deems important and may even represent a certain train of thought that the director wishes to represent. Many answers to the film can be understood through the background that it creates and directors even use minimalist designs to incite a certain reaction from the audience.
Patrick Bateman’s immaculate bachelor pad from American Psycho conceptualizes minimalistic design and gives off a modern 80s chic vibe. The apartment is characterized by two colors, black accents, and steel appliances, and there seems to be only functional furniture.
Each piece of furniture had strict measurements and no ornaments seemed to be in the picture. The pad gives off a good reflection of Bateman’s character throughout the movie where he seems to represent a well-calculated perfectionist. Apart from this, the pad also does a good job in representing the chilling vibe of the film’s theme. There is no presence of warmth or comfort throughout the movie which allows the cold, calculated apartment of Bateman to fit right in.
2001: A Space Odyssey
This movie is based on the concept of this art movement and incorporates it in visuals, sounds, and set design. The monolith in the movie itself is the best example of what minimalistic visuals can look like. Many major manufacturers and interior designers were invited in the 1960s to work on the set of the film and create a projection of what they believed the future would look like. It seems that a common understanding which came around was that the future would have a “less is more” representation. Many projections had a minimalist theme and the designers believed that the modern setting would essentially adapt to its basics.
Lastly, it is impossible to write about minimalistic set designs without mentioning Woody Allen’s film, Interiors. The production design largely plays a role in representing the theme and even helps in the narrative of the film. The film follows a monochromatic color pattern and the house in which it takes place has bare minimum furniture. There is nothing inviting and homely about the background and the desolate tone of the movie is highly enhanced by these factors. The bleak production design does well in complementing the perfectionist world created by the main character while also hinting at the implosion that is her life. The ending of the movie comes with heartbreak and sympathy towards the main character and the production design does no less in reiterating these factors. Nothing about the movie implies that it will be happy and hopeful, instead, the design helps in carrying out the narrative to its sad ending.
These stylistic elements have allowed many directors and producers to adapt to the minimalistic art movement. The production background in movies often helps in setting the mood and allowing the audience to really grasp the situation. With the use of such tools, directors around the world have given a new perspective to filmmaking and art.