Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2008

Renaissance 2054 (2006)


Discussion Questions:

Remember, your images are ABOVE your name.

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Your answer should be around 400 words. Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it.


I am looking for general observations about the film and the relationship to any aspect of madness that we have examined. The images attached to your "words" are to clarify the intention but are not meant to be action specific. We will be tying these questions to Paprika next week.


Andrew Azzopardi

Within the film renaissance, the use of both black and white is the dominant feature which both is used to define the cinematography, but also the atmosphere of the film as a totality. The film is primarily composed as a black and white film, the difference is that the black and the whites are pushed to an extreme- we generally only see black and white, and no grey tonal values. This sets up an interesting contrast within the film, one which is defined by limits. The limits are the atmospheres of future Paris; the city has become the quintessential future city- layers, visible depths, massive transportation networks, and crime. Black is used as a means to large amounts of hide information of Paris, where white becomes the only visible feature within the film. This hiding creates a sense of continuous chaos within the city- an individual or spectator never has any indication of what may be behind the foreground, or deep within the background. Everything within the city becomes unknown territory, nothing feels safe and familiar, rather it invokes a sense of unease. It is a similar approach used in Tim Burtons ‘Batman’- By de-saturating the scenes and composing the sets as if the film where a cartoon, Tim Burton achieves the same effect of the continuous unknown within his film.

Overall it is the contrast between black and white which creates this unknown within the film. Without the contrast we would not be presented with two competing elements which produces the feeling- if the film was a series of greys, it would not have the same effect, it the placement of the white next to the dark that allows us to read this madness within the film.



Tyler Bowa


Martin Chow

The use of colour into an otherwise black and white film is intended to highlight elements of certain significance, or a departure from the norm.  In Renaissance, the future world of Paris is depicted as a emotionally and psychologically cold, dark place.  All the characters, (up to the scene with colour), are normal, relatively predictable adults that operate logically and fit into their world.  As such, their appearances, faces and actions are rendered in the same way as their setting, with highlights and shadows of faces that merge seamlessly into the background.

The introduction of the character Klaus coincides with coloured rendering of his crayon drawings.  The colour catches the attention of the viewer, who has been accustomed to interpreting the film visually in terms of black and white.  Immediately one senses the significance of the moment, which when combined with the introduction of child-like elements that contrast with the slick adult world it is in, definitely jumps out from the ordinary.  Since black and white is associated with the "regular" portion of the film, with regular people and perspectives, the colour in the drawings enhances its infantile qualities, and alerts to a sense of abnormality.  It's juxtaposition with the black glove of an adult holding the crayon indicates madness in the person.   Much about Klaus is unknown, but what the viewer sees on the drawings are physical hints of the workings of a mind that operate outside of the normality represented by black and white.  It shows that Klaus is perhaps a more primative being, and does not see the world with the same lens as the viewer or the other characters.  The implications of madness makes this character unpredictable such that the scene is frought with suspense and anticipation of some kind of revelation.

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Jamie Ferriera
"high contrast"

Contrast is the difference in visual properties that makes an object (or its representation in an image) distinguishable from other objects and the background. In visual perception of the real world, contrast is determined by the difference in the color and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view. (wikipedia) Renaissance 2054: heavily styles the entire film in this manner in order to emphasize and direct the audience in terms of tone and the balance of light and dark in composition. By removing the gray, the level of uncertainty that exists in that gradient allows everything to become more definable and clearer, where doubt is removed. This removal makes the images harder to distinguish detail and works well by that since it makes movement and action more engaging and direct as tone becomes distinguishable with levels of intensity. The representation of Paris receives this complement of creating a setting where crime and deception is rampant.

In film, the use of black often symbolizes mystery and darkness as the object or scene, while white light highlights, and by having balance or even unbalance of their composition on screen, Renaissance is able to progress the story convincingly and the themes associated through reversal of those two roles in terms of the underlying message of the corruption of Avalon. Which is in appearance their city reflects light of an object or person, but in reality they are placing them in shadow, based on their intention, and ultimate quest for immortality, to which would destroy life itself. The most striking uses of high contrast are scenes where there is an over-exaggeration of light or dark as in the simulation forest trap, and even Avalon Archives and its transformation under threat with darkness. Usually, to find the intruder, one turns on the light to find the assailant, but this scenario reverses this and subjects Bislane Tasuiev into a realm where perception and space is lost in her escape. The simulation garden also generates this particular exaggeration as too much light blinds one's perception, similar to how darkness removes it.  This begins to play with how the audience interprets good and evil, as Avalon usually has white associated with it, but its acts are purely dark in nature, which suggests a reversal of the tones adds to the apparent deception in the film.  Throughout the course of the entire movie, the audience only sees shadows in order to define, and this reversal represents the dystopia of the film in a neo-noir aspect.


Meghan Galachiuk


Sarah Hawley


Fernie Lai

The film Renaissance has achieved a characteristic of madness in its representation of the future world using normal cinematic techniques, but enhanced in the nature of black and white animation.

Reflection has the effect of the distortion of the reality. Living in the world of increasing reflections everywhere, (in addition to actual mirrors, reflections also appearing in still water, glass or highly polished steel which appears to be an increasingly popular material in recent architecture), we are familiar with the nature of reflections. Its ability to let you see what you normally wouldn’t see distorts reality. There is a limitation to our vision, we cannot see everything around us, 360 degrees, actually the acute field of human vision only extends to approximately 60 degrees and then is distorted beyond that, a fuzzy range and nothing beyond the side of our heads (180 degree). At the same time, reflective surfaces placed in different arrangements also achieves very different but specific reflections of the real realm. Two parallel mirrors giving off the imagery of infinite space when one stands directly between the two looking into either one; Two mirrors placed at 90 degree angles which reflect exactly three more of the original object as shown in the example image above; or even mirrors placed at whatever angle to each other producing multiples of the original object. This type of angled reflections has the ability to enhance any type of emotion the original object embodies, using the above image as an example again, the feeling of fear and entrapment is enhanced three folds when you see the captured man backing up onto himself. Depending on the angle of such reflected surfaces, and your own relationship to the reflecting surface, an infinite possibility of unknown realms and spaces are created, all a reflection of the real world, but not an actual space. Using glass as a reflective mirror however is very different from using only reflective surfaces as seen in Renaissance 2054. More than once, the director plays with the overlaying of images behind a transparent glass with the semi-reflected image, for example when Karas is speaking with Dr. Muller on Ilona’s disappearance.



Eric Lajoie

The use spotlighting helps to create intimacy, and to help guide our attention. I think this ties into what the director was saying about it being like a theatrical performance, with a big stage they use a spotlight to essentially shrink the space, and focus our attention on certain characters. For example, in the image accompanying this question, only the people, the bench and chair are highlight. This allows us to focus on the subtleties of their motions, instead of being caught up in what is around them. In a black and white film, especially one of this magnitude, where there is a lot going on at times, I believe it would be easy to get lost in scenes without the use of spotlighting.


Andrea Lam
"high angle"

Renaissance is a movie full of extremes and contrasts. The angle at which the scenes are shot is no exception. Contrasting between black and white, corruption and purity, love and hate, low angle and high angles – to name a few – give the film an edge that would be very difficult to achieve without the use of technology and digital re-mastering, should it have been shot with live sets and real actors. The level of dynamicism that is added by taking the shots from such high angles gives the viewer almost a ‘Grand Canyon’ feel to most of the shots, with buildings, people, and the entire city in a view that is not normally possible to the every day individual. This gives a dizzying effect and takes the viewer out of the situation-at-hand and almost relieves them of the madness ensuing. The use of high angle shots goes hand-in-hand with the transition of scenes. The zooming out to or the zooming in from a high angle was never part of the plot, where say the character was high up in a helicopter, looking down (with the exception of one scene in the end). They were always used to enter or exit scenes. Another concept that the high angle addresses is the one of security. Avalon is watched and recorded from every corner. By shooting at high angles, it gives the viewer the satisfaction of seeing what ‘the eyes in the sky’ see as well. Surveillance shows up many times in the film – Avalon’s security, the police, Ilona’s captor, the chase scene with Bislane – and always raises the question as to the necessity of it. Does surveillance help the city? Or does it corrupt it further? Who does surveillance protect – the viewer or the viewed? In the case of Avalon, it is certainly the viewers who put surveillance in place that benefit from it. The police use surveillance to find the missing people and it comes down to, once again, the struggle between good and evil. 



Bi-Ying Miao
"low angle"

The use of low angle shots in Renaissance 2054 is used in various ways to highlight the disorienting madness of the depicted futuristic Paris. This filming emphasizes the high-contrast nature of the film is all its darks and lights, pasts and futures, and life and immortality.

By directing the camera upward at a particular scene, the audience is placed at a very unnatural position while the subjects of the scene are enlarged to take on a stronger presence. The dehumanization in the perspective reflects the exaggerated obsession with beauty and the cruel experimentation to achieve it of future Paris in the film. In addition, the inhuman angle lends to the idea of surveillance in the film where the viewer becomes abstracted to the perspective of a recording device. Again, the unnatural quality of the low angle shot further emphasizes the quality of the film.

From a technical standpoint, the low angle approach reveals a hierarchy of information from foreground to background. In the provided image, the main character dominate the screen. The low camera angle not only places Karas the most authoritative position as the driver, his environment is projected in an almost exaggerated perspective. In this case it is the supporting technology of the future world and the force of justice in the film that gets emphasized by virtue of the low angle shot. In this way, the filming technique helps to create a relationship with the scene by establishing a extreme perspective view. It seems that depending on the character and the severity of the low angle, the character in question could either be seen as an oppressive corporate power to an authoritative figure of justice.

Lastly, the low angle technique further brings out the multi-level infrastructure of above- and below-ground paths that are visually transparent. The chase-scene through this infrastructure in the greatly benefits from the use of low angle in highlighting the vertical stacking of circulation routes in the city and therefore, emphasizing the futuristic quality of the film.


Andrea Murphy

The presence of such recognizable icons in Renaissance are unlike what we have seen in most of the previous films involving madness. Most of the other films have used built sets or ambiguous or disorienting location shooting. Renaissance, however, is recognizably located in Paris and has references to the icons of the city, including the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Sacré Cœur, Notre Dame, and the Seine River. The digital makeover of Paris into a futuristic technologically advanced city is surprisingly parallel to the plot line of the Avalon Corporation seeking to find the key to immortality.

In the explanation of the identity of the film as a near-future film, as opposed to a science fiction, there was an implication that some of Paris has been manipulated more than other portions. The apparent portions that have not been edited are the icons of the city: the recognizable signifiers of Paris. The fact that the icons have not been edited in the process of designing the futuristic landscape implies that they have something special that other areas are missing, something intangible which makes them untouchable by the set designers. These icons, in the world of 2054, have achieved that which Avalon is trying to capture: immortality.

Avalon itself, in its architecture, is attempting to find that which is at the core of immortality by creating a monumental headquarters which one might imagine would become an icon in the future. The large facility which they create seems a rival in scale to the other recognizable icons of Paris which remain in the 2054 set. By creating an overbearing head office, the notion of everlasting life is brought to the forefront in an almost menacing way. The madness of an architecture with intentions of becoming iconic is revealed in the broad panoramic views of Paris which include the arching profile of the Avalon facility dwarfing everything in the area. It appears to reinforce the notion that the President of Avalon is intent on growing in power, while we the viewers know that he will use any method within his corrupted grasp to gain it.

The notion of being able to create icons in the city by holding enough power and building enough monumental architecture is an absurd concept. As seen in the selected icons of the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, and Montmartre, sometimes they are the most out of place objects (Eiffel Tower), or geographic physical realities (Mountain, River)which become the identity of a city.


Morgan O'Reilly
"old city"

In the Paris of 2054 new development has created an entirely new city on top of the old city. Rather than an integration of the new with the old, essentially the old city has become the new ground plane into which the new very high tech looking developments are plugged. Large steel legs create a separation between the levels and in some special instances, such as Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, the ground plane is enclosed by a layer of glass. It is obvious that in the process of development it was decided that these areas are special instances, which deserve preservation and should not touched unlike the majority of the old city. Other than these special instances, rarely do you see the old city actually being inhabited. Most of the time the characters are shown within the raised level, on platforms and within glass rooms that hover over the old city. People are also often shown to inhabit La Defense rather than the old area of Paris.
With these additions what was once an accretion of smaller elements, becomes monolithic and unified. Montmartre, for example had once consisted of a finer grain, which accumulated to create a whole. With the additions of the new city, the fine grain has been lost and Montmartre has become incredibly intimidating and uninviting.

Overall there is a rejection of the old in favour of the new. This is quite in tune with the objectives of Avalon, which associates youth with beauty. The influences of Avalon have created a population, which does not respect or see beauty in that which is considered old. This is evident in the way the ‘Old City’ has been treated. The spaces the population chooses to inhabit are new and separated from the old city. By putting a layer of glass over the more tourist-oriented locations, the integration between the old and new is once again avoided. It is as if these instances have been set aside for keeping in the china cabinet and are no longer for every day use. This mindset really feeds into the sense of madness in the film as it takes an idea, which is quite apparent in the current media and pushes it to the extreme. To imagine that the ruling attitude of the population might progress to this point under the influence of the media is quite scary. However given the power of the media, it might be considered possible, making Paris of 2054 even more menacing. 


Sue Anne Tang

Renaissance incorporates layers visually with the graphics and the plot. Graphically, the layers of the scenes add visual depth to the characters and the scenery. An example would be the ‘virtual’ nature scene where the layers of vegetation emerge around Ilona when she awakens. Visual depth emerges through the layering, so there is differentiation between the foreground, middle ground and background. The layer in the foreground, which is usually the main characters, provides a focal point for the viewer.

Layers are incorporated in the structure of the city, where the billboards of Avalon are located in the top, with buildings, transportation and the street below. The layering of the city makes the setting of Paris in 2054 believable because it captures the idea of a city becoming dense over time. There are transparent, opaque and solid layers which either conceal or reveal an aspect of the plot. During the car chase, the tinted window layer hides the identity of Claus, until the window is broken. On the other hand, after Karas gains information about the whereabouts of Ilona from his partner and enters the underground, the audience can see his partner getting beaten up overhead since the platform is a transparent layer.
The layers facilitate fluid transitions between scenes since the layers can be shifted and visually altered during movement. The layers also add to the aspect of madness because they can be slightly disorienting since they do add visual depth. A sense of ambiguity in some of the scenes emerges due to the layering effect. Layering the animation with the ‘real’ actors adds character depth and the subtleties of human emotion that would not occur in typical animation films. Although the film is in black and white, layering the various shades of opacity add a sense of realism yet also abstracts the image.


Meredith Vaga

In the Paris of Renaissance all movement of each individual is monitored and recorded by the pharmaceutical giant Avalon. The prevailing attitude of the society itself, as propagated by Avalon, is towards youth and beauty, and viewing those as the most coveted commodity. Through this, it is inferred that permanence (i.e. immortality) is the ultimate aim of the corporation, who ominously promises to be with you “for life.”

Through the way in which the society has evolved, nature has been rejected from the city itself, as it does not fit into the world order. Nature is generally uncontrollable, which is obviously not a desirable quality for a corporation who strives to control everything. More importantly, the defining characteristic of the natural is the way in which it is constantly undergoing a process of renewal in the life/death cycle, which permeates through all levels of the world. The resulting move to virtually eliminate nature from the city is then reflected in the film in three key ways.

The first way nature is represented in the film is the most understated: as an aspect of the construction of the New City of Paris, one can see the Seine has become essentially another layer of the ancient infrastructure that pervades and under-lays the entire city.  This ‘underbelly’ of the city is half buried under the entire system, and is interestingly enough the place in which Ilona is held after being kidnapped.

Which leads directly to the second key way nature is utilized in the film: the space Ilona is kept for the duration of the film is an enclosure through which nature in the form of a forest is virtually constructed in seemingly endless space. This constructed infinite space is very disorienting, – endless trees – and disengages both her and the audience from understanding a sense of place. It is also interesting to note that those who reside outside of the system created this artificial construct. This construct is still, however, a part of the built world.

The final instance of nature in the film is seen when Karas goes to the apartment, where the forest plays an integral part in the resulting fight sequence as a method to both reveal and conceal – motifs that occur throughout the film in relation to the cat and mouse game played between Karas and Avalon. This instance of nature is, as far as the audience is aware, the only ‘real’ nature left in a relatively natural state. Furthering the idea that nature is not conducive to control by the governing powers, this brings up an interesting dichotomy not dissimilar to that found in the film Equilibrium in regards to the hypocritical tendencies of those in power. 


Anna-Joy Veenstra

There is a fairly steady rain throughout the movie Renaissance with a mix in of snow every once in a while. Obviously there is a large attempt to make the film seem more ‘real’ with the addition of weather always in the background. However, this occurrence gives an unsettling vibe, why is it always raining in Paris 2054?

Rain, which we think of as typically transparent, is in this movie depicted as white. Usually it is difficult to tell if it is raining when you look outside, however, it is very clear in the film when it is raining with these white streaks outside the windows. The splatters as the rain hits any surfaces are emphasized too. This is useful in order for Karas and the viewers to see the ‘invisible’ men. As they travel through the darkness, the splatters on their clothing’s surfaces give an indication of where they are. The rain also allows reflections to occur in puddles on the street, giving the movie a more lifelike quality to the characters as they move through the very structured urban context of the film.

The white streaks of rain also give an ’old quality’ to the movie as if there has been a revert back to the use of film with splats and streaks running through it.

In terms of how the characters interact with the weather, it seems that typically they have an important mission, which the rain doesn’t deter them from. But it seems to make the whole affair miserable. (I even got bored of it all after a while) However, when Karas and Brislane are fleeing Avalon in the rain, they seem to feel held back by it. Instead they share an intimate moment in a sheltered space. So typical.

Many movies become memorable for scenes acted out in the rain (Singing in the Rain, Say Anything, Blade Runner). Unfortunately, Renaissance doesn’t gain the same sort of recognition, as rain use is sub-standard here.


Rui Wang

Because Renaissance is such a high-contrast black and white film, materiality - especially the textural qualities - is extremely important in generating interesting sets and atmospheres. In typical films, dirty, gritty sets contrast with the clean, smooth to produce unique, subtle mood shifts appropriate to the plot and the characters. What Renaissance does and needed to do was to crank up the difference and kill the subtly all together.

As a grimy animated film-noir tale, Renaissance could not afford to remain in the gray-area of good-guy/bad-guy dichotomies. The images are crystal clear in that the director has chosen exactly what gets highlighted and what does not. Thus the materials have to be either highly accentuated, such as the highly rusticated stones and complex steel frames seen across the city; or they need to be extremely slick, as seen in the Avalon headquarters. So there is either roughness or there is sheen. Sometimes when it rains on the buildings there is both!Both qualities look well in high-contrast and both are easier to represent than more subtle material differences.

This is an important component to the movie as a whole. The film offers little in the way of nuance, which is unfortunate in a detective story set in such a well developed futuristic version of Paris. More focus on the details and less on the visual style would have benefited the movie in the long run - turning it from a visual stunner that quickly grows old to a truly great sci-fi genre film. As is, the sheer relentlessness of the contrast begins to wear on the senses and one begins to long for those gray moments to rest.


Jane Wong

Renaissance bases itself in the year 2054, where technology has advanced so far as to provide much more efficient and space-managing methods of communication, surveillance and architecture, but fails to deliver a new method of transportation within the city’s infrastructure. It seems strange that in such an advanced age, while although still based closely on the city’s original architectural basis (city blocks), the roads remain little changed, and the subway is still used and is identifiable to us. Furthermore, the cars also retain the same structure of cars we have today, posing the question as to whether the filmmakers chose to do this on purpose, and to what degree they are integral to the rest of the film.

Transportation serves has an important indicator for the dependency on these antiquated arterial routes to navigate through the city and also serves as a method of contrast for the function and aesthetic of what should be an advanced city. The irony of the modern city is clear – while the city may advance in every other way of living, the basic necessity of movement and traversing the built landscape is not, which perhaps allows us to see where our societal downfalls lie (use of large vehicles, gas), or where they succeed and will continue to live forward (societal demand). This contrast also allows us to access the film better, where we can directly relate our experiences with the urban methods of transportation to the ones in the movie, making it much more realistic and grounded for viewers today.   



Yoshi Hashimoto

Renaissance is in every way a caricature- everything from the stark black and white artwork to the world-weary maverick gumshoe who gets suspended halfway through the story.  The depiction of technology and the future itself is also a caricature- its key features distilled down to distinct polarities, with few shades of grey in between.
Technology is appropriately slick and impressive, especially in the realm of surveillance, visibility, recording and uncovering; especially in the ability to manipulate and control these tools, their ability to cross reference biometrics with police and medical records, etc.  The story depicts how effectively the authorities utilize it for crime fighting, both for solving crimes and for preventing them.  It is strongly reminiscent of previous films such as "1984" and "The Minority Report", in which constant surveillance is accepted by society as a means of law enforcement.  In this version, however, they manage to integrate the cameras and recording equipment to be very seamless and inconspicuous.  For all their ability to pan and rotate the surveillance camera around, one never sees it "from the front".  People do not act guarded or bitter, in their perception of the authorities or other "powers that be".  All the more effective, probably, to keep people off guard.  Omnipresence is made more powerful with invisibility; you never know when you're being watched.

Is that any better?  Is it any less intrusive?  One has to wonder at one point, how people have grown to accept it, or whether they even fully realize.  One has to wonder if it is worth the exchange- loss of privacy for the promised security from crimes and other problems of society.  Has it worked, is there any less crime in that society as compared to what was known in the past?  If this technology is available to the authorities, how do we know that it will not be used for nefarious purposes, or by the "bad guys"? 

This dilemma of a double edged sword is parallel to the issue of immortality.  If one has never pondered the necessity of some of lifes unpleasantries and contrasts, they should, and this film makes the case for it.  We need dark as much as we need light, unconscious as much as conscious.  Cold for hot, noise for quiet, and of course, death as much as life.  Technology becomes a caricature for ends becoming a means.



Elfie Kalfakis

The city of Paris, as depicted in Renaissance 2054, is under constant and intrusive surveillance by an overarching company, Avalon, involved with genetic modification research.  The company prides itself on being a reliable authority to its people, but is actually a corrupt organization with an ultimate goal of finding immortality through genetic modification.  The company puts on a façade to its public to hide aspirations for personal gain. 

Ilona Tasuiev is a well respected genetic researcher for Avalon.  She is depicted as a well-to-do young girl with superior intelligence.  She has a pristine ideal beauty.  The plot revolves around rescuing Ilona after she is kidnapped.  The reason for her kidnapping unfolds but isn’t clear until the movies end.  Initially we assume she is kidnapped by Avalon members.  Then we realize she is kidnapped by a close friend of hers in Avalon.  We realize Ilona uncovered the secrets of Avalon’s failed experiements and assume the kidnapping was to prevent the leaking of information.  As the plot unfolds we realize the kidnapping is an attempt to save Ilona from being used by Avalon to achieve their goals of immortality.  After Illona is rescued, she reveals that she is aware of the secret quest towards immortality and suffers from the same corruption as the members of Avalon; she too aspires towards this goal.

The entire movie revolves around the theme of deception.  The idea of facades resonates if we look more closely at the depiction of faces.  Ilona is a seemingly dignified character, but by the end of the movie we realize she is just as corrupt as the authority figures of Avalon.  The people who are honest, and hold the truth about Avalon’s failed experiments are either well aged or disfigured. The logo/ spokes person for Avalon is a digital image of a woman, whose face morphs from a ragged aged face into a flawless complexion. The advertisements promote reliability to Parisians, but the fact that the spokes model is morphing while doing so is suspicious.   So, what’s interesting is that the ‘pristine mask’ that is worn in this movie to hide personal motives not only deceives the characters, (logo), but also the audience, (Ilona).  This adds a level of empathy.

Our sense of ideal beauty does not register as a good thing to the audience.  By the end of the movie we realize the only ‘good’ people in the movie are not necessarily the ‘beautiful’ people. The physical representations of the characters are usually in contrast to their ‘inner persons’. So not only is ideal beauty used as a vessel for deception, but also a commentary on the superficiality of physical appearance. 

What’s also interesting is in a city where one is constantly being watched, the sophistication of creating a mask for oneself could go as far as a genetic modification of one’s appearance.  Avalon is endorsing a genetically modified beauty, where everyone in the city will have an ideal face. For the most part the faces within the movie are not well rendered. The eyes are the most expressive part of the face. In the production process, the actors wore goggles that would graph eye expressions, that was the only part of the face that was captured. The idea that the only parts of the human face that are distinguishable are the eyes suggests‘facelessness’ towards the citizens. 

Eyes have always been a symbol of truth, or as the entry point of a person’s soul.  The rendering of the faces of the characters blankly, with vivid eyes adds to the interpretation of superficiality.  Where the faces, or whatever masks worn, cannot rebut the inherent truth each character.


Elaine Lui

In a future Paris rendered in black and white with Computer Animation using motion picture capture of theatre performers, the movie directed by Christian Volckman entitled Renaissance is unique in its creation. Particularly in capturing the human eye in computer graphics, Volckman has added a soul to each of his characters while drawing the audience into the drama of the plot.

The way the human eye is rendered in the computer graphics is modeled after a scene being re-enacted by theatrically trained actors. The way the pupil shifts as it studies an individual is also carefully mapped in more intimate scenes. The advantage of capturing eye moment and not losing the attention of the viewer in darker scenes, the director had chosen to allow the eye whites to remain white, even when there was no light to reflect in shadowed sets.

The thoughts and intents of the characters were also revealed through the rendering of the eyes. Muller the scientist had shifting eyes that led one the suspect him, while Karas, the policeman and protagonist possessed an intense and unwavering gaze of determination. Ilona had been illustrated with a unique white starburst to her eyes that seem to imitate blue eyes, while most other characters possess black eyes. This feature adds to her haughtiness of character and due to her eyes, her malice is even more convincing when she choose to lessen the value of life in abiding to Avalon’s protocol.

A specific scene that was well used of the eye movements was when Karas had invaded Bislane’s home when she escaped from the police station. Bislane begins to recollect her past and her gazes between Karas as she tells the story are convincing; reflections are handled well to the extent of eye movements as only the characters’ reflections are seen as they both gaze into the Paris skyline.

The eyes are rendered to a precision that relay a convincing story that allows the view to taste the flavour of the character’s souls. The dedication to rendering movement in a black and white setting added a candid reality to the film while increasing the drama of the specific scenes.


Reggie Macintosh

Renaissance 2054, a film created using both live and computer generated actors, emotes a level of emotion much higher than most other CG creations.  Set in “The City of Light”, there are preconceived notions of romance and excitement attached to Paris.  Yet the emotions exuded in this film lie at the more carnal of levels, driven by the abduction of a beautiful woman.  The success of emotional portrayal in this film hinges on several elements:  the graphic quality of the presentation, the believability of the characters’ movements, and the body language between characters.

Though the quality, believability, and realism of CG animation and graphics has advanced tremendously since its inception, the human eye is still able to discern what has been filmed live action and what has been created in a computer.  The ‘graphic novel’ style of Renaissance (high contrast black and white) does not allow the audience to scrutinize the CG characters in terms of their ability to portray real people as they have already been abstracted.  In this decision, the artists working on the film have been freed to focus more attention on portraying emotional responses from the characters.  It is a case of ‘less is more’ in terms of reducing the characters down to their essential qualities and using what is left to tell a compelling, emotional story.

One of the most striking elements in the film was the believability of the characters’ movements.  As a real person acted out each role in Renaissance with their movements recorded into the computer, the animators’ job has become much easier to allow the characters to move.  It is in the personality, the small nuances, and the involuntary twitches of the actors that truly bring this animation to life visibly and emotionally.  During a discussion between the sister and principal investigator, she brings her knees to her chest, letting a shoe fall to the floor while stubbing out a cigarette.  This single series of movements shows more about her mood than any dialogue could have or even a facial reaction.  A good actor is someone who can both deliver lines in a believable manner as well as move their body in way that describes the true meaning behind the words.  This holds true for animation as well.  Body language between characters follows the same line of discussion.  Emotion comes from not only what we say but also how we physically interact with other people.  Our movements toward another person or simply while talking to another person can tell a completely different story than the one we are verbalizing.  So, the believability of body language in Renaissance is just as important to portraying emotion as the dialogue is to advancing the plot.

Renaissance 2054 successfully used CG animation to create a world filled with excitement, drama, and emotion.  It did so by creating an atmosphere of believability in the movements of the characters, and their graphic depiction.  Limiting the palette of representation to black and white and emotionally rich movements allows the audience to lose itself in this futuristic vision of Paris where eternal youth is at our fingertips but is the last thing we want.


Judith Martin

Generally violence in films is depicted as a disturbing act rooted by evil.  The violent scenes in Renaissance deviate from the generic methods of portraying evil by using the technique of motion capture.  The motion capture technique essentially strips the visuals into a simplistic composition flattening each image of violence into a romanticized gesture of hostility.  This can be contrasted to the naked acts of violence depicted in Clockwork Orange.  The druids in clockwork orange commit brutal and grotesque acts of violence towards one another and towards society.  These acts are often accompanied by bloodshed and other violent graphic content and are depicted with lots of colour, varying angles and close-ups.  Violent instances in Renaissance feature far less of the grotesque and varying perspectives of each instance but instead focus on the basic actions portrayed using exaggerated film techniques to strengthen the visual essence of the act.   A man aiming a gun is visually simplified with a high contrast silhouette of the light touching each surface.  This reveals a sinister outlined face, a clenched hand at the end of a barrel.  This scene is then given an exaggerated perspective to emphasize the importance and significance of the gun itself.  The scene is stripped of all ornament and extravagance resulting in a celebration of the image of violence itself.   The image is one of momentum and power depicted through the suspense of the un-pulled trigger, the image is pure: a man holding a trigger peering down the site of the gun with no intention of changing his mind.  Rather than having an undertone of the insane and mad that Clockwork Orange had, the violent acts in Renaissance are fed through a filter of romance allowing the event of violence to be appreciated at a heightened state. 


Derek McCallum

The setting of Renaissance in 2054 Paris provides an extremely interesting and original view of a potential social/economic as well as urban future.  Firstly, the idea of an overbearing and oppressive state machine that rules over its citizens is absent, which differs from Brazil, Alphaville, and Equilibrium.  A tyrannical corporate CEO instead replaces it.  The company Avalon pushes beauty and “longevity” products on its customers and goes to extreme lengths to protect both its secrets and its interests.  It’s advertising dominates the billboard landscape and seems inescapable.  However, the social organization of this future seems to be relatively libertine and people may go about their lives, and even though Avalon is shown to be extremely powerful that power is largely confined to the realm of its products.  In this future, corporate interests trump any form of government power.

The urban future illustrated in the film is also unique in comparison to other films viewed during the term.  There is an intense desire to create a city that feels like it has grown from its original form and retains some of the genius loci of that place.  The image of Haussmann-era buildings flanking wide boulevards is clearly still evident, as is the Sacre Coeur perched atop the Montmartre.  Even the subway trains speak of present-day Paris right down to the abundant graffiti.  These indicators of the city’s intense sense of character lend the future image of Paris more credibility and interest.  I find that the development of the city in the negative, below-grade, as opposed to the more often used skyscraper image is extremely effective.   It reveals some of the innards of the city; especially the subway trains bursting from underground out over the deeply recessed Seine, or the various levels of highways that cling to the edge of the river embankment beneath glass-floored walkways.  New architecture appears largely as parasitic-type small-scale interventions attached to and around the existing fabric.  This richly layered image of present and future presents a much more fulfilling and meaningful image of 2054 Paris than had it been envisioned as one great futuristic place devoid of all the character that makes Paris so unique and recognizable.  One of the few entirely “new” spaces in Paris is the Avalon headquarters, which appears as a great arch hovering over an immense public plaza.  This future Arc de Triomphe would seem to replace the original and confirm the dominance of corporate interests over the state.





Sarah Neault
"musical score"

The musical score of Renaissance plays two key roles in contributing to the sense of madness in the film.  First, the classical score grounds the film in a traditional film score which contrasts with the experimental visuals. Second, the original score reinforces the emotions induced in the audience by the characters and set and elevates the relationship of the three (sound, character, and set) to a surreal experience. 

The visual style of the film is highly experimental and thus challenges the audience’s sense of reality and sanity.  The classical musical score, on the other hand, is familiar to the audience and understandable - which makes it ‘sane’.  The tension between these two coincident states is much more powerful than either alone.

The nuances of the original score, which is highly expressive, both reinforces and contrasts the relative realities of the set and the characters.  These three levels of communication with the audience slip and slide between real and surreal sometimes reinforcing one another and sometimes chafing against one another.  That interaction is what creates a genuine sense of madness - both felt and represented - in the film.



Lisa Rajkumar-Maharaj
"the vision of the director"

The emotive effect of the film Renaissance can be described as being a semi-realistic dream in which parts of our world have descended into a kind of madness that is terrifyingly fathomable. The Avalon Company which seems to be most closely linked to the idea of a government sells beauty. The story alludes to the danger of trying to create a more beautiful human and that living as cerebral constructs that deny our innate human-ness inevitably makes our existence a mad one.

The director achieved these effects through his graphic cinematic style as well as in his selection of location and the genre of his visual effects.

The graphic style used in the movie establishes a surreal quality of existence for the characters in the film, which seems neither real, nor totally animated. It is between live action and animation and immediately creates a disturbing but seductive sense of madness or dissonance.

The selection of Paris as the city of origin in this particular film, broadens the tradition of dytopic films borrowing the sets of existing cities. The selection of Paris is interesting because it is iconographically one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Having this dystopia projected on Paris, therefore creates a remarkable myth based purely on that of the existing city. The effect is believability as well as disharmony between the Parisian ideal and the ‘reality’ portrayed in the film.

Alongside the selection of city and the graphic style of the movie, it is important to look at the genre of cinematic style this film engages, which is in part Film Noir. Film Noir, developed in 1940’s and 50’s looks at sex, violence and crime with dreamlike and yet brutal eyes that borrow from German Expressionistic black and white films. There is something intangible and different about film noir that is achieved through its ambiguous presentation of lurid lifestyles and acts in almost casual ways. This style accentuates the traditional Parisian charm and helps to build the main character, Karas into the detective hero. Within this style, with a praise of the unintentionally ugly, there is an opposition drawn to the Avalon Company which prizes beauty. A more melancholic, troubled or jaded beauty is evoked in the main characters, with generic beauty becoming something to be careful of. 


  Michael Taylor
"motion capture"

Allison Janes
"animation of places"

The first time I saw Renaissance film I was living and working in Paris. I spent most of the film watching the animation of the city, looking for landmarks that I recognized and seeing how they were re-interpreted. It is apparent the animators wanted Paris to be a main character of the film. They capture the unique personality of Paris as we know it – a city with generations of history, Haussmann boulevards, art and café culture, and speculate how this unique character would evolve over 48 years, in which time there has been massive expansion in the built environment as well as the scars of war.

The development and animation of the settings chosen by the production team reinforce the link between the spirit of the existing city and the madness of Paris in the future. The production team did not create an entire three-dimensional model of Paris; instead, they specifically chose the districts, monuments, and architectural detail that embody the character of Paris they wished to represent and animated it specifically. This demonstrates the distinct knowledge and attitude the animators, as Parisians have toward the contemporary city. They understood the unique moods of each district. For instance, the dark and dingy character underneath the bridges of the Seine or the madness of flashing lights, cabaret girls and strip shows in the Picalle district. The animators were able to manipulate these existing environments to best express the chaos and corruption of Paris in the movie. Therefore, the Paris depicted in Renaissance is not dependent on the existing conditions but on the memories and spirit the contemporary city embodies, and the creativity this inspires in the animators.

Additionally, the animators have taken contemporary conditions, such as the disconnection between inner Paris and the surrounding suburbs, and speculated on the evolution of this urban relationship. Paris in 2054 has constrained its borders and retreated from its surrounding context. The Rue Peripherique (peripheral highway) has become a fortress wall with steep sloping sides built of stone and metal. To accommodate the finite borders of the city, Paris is built up and dug down. Glass cubes rise above historical buildings with their steel supports (clearly influenced by the steel architecture of the Eiffel Tower) cutting straight through the old structures. Dark underground tunnels create a labyrinth below the historical city and the metro.  It is as if expansion has eaten away at historical and contemporary Paris, threatening the very foundations that support it. The bones of the city remain - the historical buildings and boulevards of Haussmann, the Seine, the Metro and the iconic medieval architecture. They are the remnants of the city spirit of Paris as it once was and contrast the mad evolution of urban relationships currently present in Paris.

In conclusion the animators were able to describe the madness of Paris in 2054 without losing or diminishing the existing spirit of the city by incorporating and expanding on the existing character of Paris. They used their unique knowledge of the city to render the specific architectural forms, details and urban relationships of the existing city, with their representation of a chaotic future. 


Allan Wilson
"animation of people"

As a technique, motion capture allows for a seemingly more efficient method of animating scenes, as well it generates opportunities for greater visual emphasis and artistic experimentation to be investigated in each scene. In Renaissance, this is presented through the construction of a synthetic and richly layered Paris and insertion of “live action” therein. There are several ways in which this process of MOCAP animation could potentially feed into the theme of madness in Volkman’s film.

What is particularly interesting about this film is that the actual dialogues and scenarios presented could technically have been filmed via conventional methods; possibly within the same financial constraints of traditional film. Essentially, body language and character interactions have being modelled in very realistic ways, with few grotesque characters (only slight charactures). As such, there are very few moments in Renaissance where unrealistic circumstances suspend the viewer’s disbelief. That being said, the benefits of using animation over live action is that the viewer is allowed to experience an aura similar to Burton’s Batman - the viewing of “real” people in comic scenarios- only ironically with less risk of coming off as overtly cartoonish. It is far easier to associate with the characters in Renaissance than it is with those from Gotham. Although a highly rendered and stylized comic film, any violence or expression of insanity is seen in a more “Kubrick-ian” way, that is, it is much more visceral and believable; though completely and blatantly fictional. The same rhetoric could be applied to the setting. By placing these highly realistic characters into an intensely stylized scene you get an intensification or amplification of that same overarching tone, of a near futuristic dystopia.

Secondly (and quite differently), when examining the processes involved in motion capture animation, it is required of the actors to essentially perform in a vacuum. One may expect then that any dialogue and/or gestural interplay between performers becomes extremely exaggerated. In traditional theatre and pantomime this is done to clarify and amplify the passion and emotion of each character to the entire house. But when translated to the world of digital filming these two phenomena become the only available mediums to work with. Volkman himself suggests that it would take upwards of 30 takes to get the combination of the two perfect. With this in mind, and with body language being such a critically personal and passionate exchange, one would expect moments of intensity and madness to become increasingly poignant.



updated 19-Dec-2008 6:02 PM

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