Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2009

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 MANIPULATING REALITY that we have examined. The images attached to your "words" are to clarify the intention but are not meant to be action specific. PLEASE TIE YOUR ANSWER TO ONE OR MORE OF THE OTHER FILMS THAT WE HAVE VIEWED SO FAR THIS TERM. i.e. how did Renaissance use your word or picture clue to manipulate the film presentation of reality and how did anothe film that we have studied this term do this is a similar way.


Matthew Barbesin

In Renaissance, the use of manipulation is that of a neo animated form of film noir, and it is a mainly aesthetic gesture. There are no grey shadings in the film's visual palette to match the characters' more equivocal moralities, and the result is a dark, dark world occasionally exposed to the most harsh and unforgiving of lights. It is shot with such a high contrast, that its almost as if the black’s white negative brings our the details of each shot.

Renaissance desperately wants its future world to look bleak, and the dark images definitely echo that of a city in the shadows of a corporate giant, Avalon, which sells the irresistible promise of "ageless beauty."

The director, Christian Volckman uses his use of film noir animation as a device for him to manipulate look and state of Paris in 2056. The film's look is a combination of CG animation, motion capture, and a palette consisting solely of black & white.

The architecture, although manipulated in the animated film noir, is certainly recognizable, but its classic architecture is glazed with all manner of futuristic touches, from vast glass penthouses to layers of transparent walkways outside Notre Dame Cathedral; and with the prevalence of the action taking place at night, frequently in the rain, the City of Light more often suggests a very literal representation of film noir.


Stephanie Boutari

As the film Renaissance is primarily black and white all forms of light are represented by white. Therefore differing qualities of light - in colour for example, or if natural or artificial - are undifferentiated. By employing such a high contrast, the film's use of white highlights and emphasizes movements of the figures, which draws all of the viewer's focus on the characters actions. Highlighting these elements heightens the drama in many scenes, for example when facial expressions become completely abstracted and exaggerated with the use of pure white lighting their faces, rather than a more realistic tonal variation.

In terms of the film's environmental and architectural settings, the majority of the film is shot at night time, therefore the use of white is partially representative of the city street lights, lit windows and other elements that this light would naturally highlight. However, white is also frequently used to highlight physical elements in a way that light would not, for example in outlining certain buildings, structures or figures.

By using white in a manner that does not strictly adhere to the natural behaviour of light, all sense of reality in the film is altered. The viewer is made to feel like he or she is immersed in a new world, as the film is recognizably set in Paris but far in the future. The dominance of night scenes and therefore artificial lighting also appears to emphasize a more technology-dependent, futuristic world.

There are two settings in particular where an unnatural abundance of white is used to create  a feeling of tension and discomfort in the viewer. This is achieved mainly because of the contexts in which this use of white occurs, as well as its mere artificialness, which give the audience an ominous sense of unfamiliarity combined with a high-tech feel of this 2054 world.

The first setting is that of the artificial nature bubble in which the scientist Ilona has been kidnapped. When it first appears, this natural environment is much more brightly lit than the city setting, hence the viewer has the impression that Ilona is in another location, seen during the day. However it is soon apparent that this environment is merely an artificial construction which is constantly brightly lit, serving as a jail in which to trap her and monitor her every move. In the restricted access room in Avalon - the largest and most powerful company in the city - Ilona's sister intrudes to try and retrieve confidential information. In this scene, an unnatural level of light (and use of white) heightens the sense of unfamiliarity and tension. These two situations also serve to reflect the advanced, state-of-the-art and highly secured facilities of avalon, hence their superiority and power in the plot of the film.

The film Cube also uses white to convey a sense of unfamiliarity of what is outside the cube, but in a different manner. The external environment of the cube is represented throughout the film as a vast black space, and only when the last survivor manages to escape is it portrayed as pure white. This representation still does not provide any physical clues about the site, however because of this, the white is symbolic of escape and refuge from the deathly confines of the cube. This is much unlike Renaissance where its use correlates with advanced technology, artificiality and sense of foreboding.


Laura Fenwick

The film Renaissance features a rare visual style in which almost all images are exclusively black and white. There are hardly any shades of grey in the film. This is why it is interesting that the colour only appears twice in the film when Muller’s brother is drawing. I believe that the film chose to use colour in this scene for two main reasons; to highlight a key point and character in the film, and to represent a crude form of animation in such a high quality animated film.

Muller’s little brother is a key character in the film. The audience starts to see him and wonder who is half way through the film, but it is when he is drawing that the audience begins to realise he is a key character to the plot of the film. It is when you see him drawing a second time that the audience begins to understand the importance of this character. Muller’s little brother is the reason why Muller is trying to find the cure for Progeria and also part of the reason why he’s trying to cover up the investigation. The use of colour in this part of the film highlights a key point in the plot, making the audience realise that there is something important in this part of the film.

Another reason colour may have been used in this part of the film is to show a crude form of animation in its real state. The film itself is such a high quality form of animation that it makes sense to show the roughest form of animation (drawing) in its real state. If it were to be shown in the same way the film was made I believe it would definitely not have made the same impact.

Another film in which colour is used to manipulate reality is The Cube. The Cube uses colour in the same way Renaissance does however a lot more frequently. The use of colour in The Cube is also used to highlight key plot developments. However, it is be a little more subtle than Renaissance as the rest of the film is in colour also but the use of colour in The Cube highlights a particular mood. For instance when they are in the red cube, there is a general feeling of anger and violence. This is in direct contrast to white cube shown at the end of the film which is the bridge cube to exit. Both Renaissance and The Cube use colour to guide the audience through the plot development.

x 4.     x

Nora Guan
"high contrast"

The film Renaissance is stylized into black and white with ultra sharp contrasts. The successful use of light displays positive and negative spaces while maintaining a sense of depth. The whole story is about the contrast between black and white, good and evil, corruption and justice, love and hate. By removing the gradient of grey, everything becomes so absolute and definable. There is not much character development in the film. For example, Karas spends most of the time to save Ilona throughout the movie; however, she turns evil right after being saved. Karas then kills her without hesitation. Clearly, there is no level of uncertainty and doubt in this film. In order to give the film this sense of highly defined edge, technology and digital manipulation are used to achieve the effect of absolute contrast.

The high contrast between stark jet black and bright white is also used effectively to highlight the essential story of the film, while as the graphics in a color film always impinge on one’s perception of the events. The removal of grey makes it harder to distinguish details. Thus, the movement and action of the characters become sharper and clearer. Audiences are more engaged to the actual story without any colored or detail distractions.  One can also tell the atmosphere from the level of intensity and the balance between black and white. 

In the film, black represents the hidden part of the society while white is the only visible. There is a sense of mystery in the film, for one can never tell what’s happening in the darkness. This also implies that Parisian society in 2054 is full of darkness, such as corruption and crime. People’s desire towards immortality causes dome to themselves. The most striking uses of high contrast are scenes where Ilona is kidnapped in the forest. There, light fills up most of the part on the screen. It feels like a dream of living in the Utopia. The bright light blinds people’s perception, while darkness deceives it. To summarize, “Renaissance” successfully uses black and white contrast to manipulate the 2054 Parisian society.


Matt Hartney

The use of transparency in the film Renaissance takes on several forms in order to manipulate the viewers sense of reality. As this film is set in a tangible future, just over 40 years from now, the Parisian setting of Renaissance is recognizable as a modified version of the Paris of today, with the addition of a considerable amount of vertical density and prominent displays of high technology. Transparency is used in may ways to signify the advancements in technology that set this period apart from the present, and to support the framing of the Avalon Corporation as an all-powerful entity in this future world.

The spectacle of technology in Paris 2054 is found throughout the film.  Identification cards, on screen displays, and communications devices are envisioned as transparent rectangles that glow with life when activated. Holography is another method by which the film introduces the importance of transparency to advanced technology, as demonstrated in the streets of Paris where giant nudes dance over street corners and interact directly with passerby on the street, who in turn walk right through them. The use of clear glazing as a hardscaping material in public plazas indicates that completely transparency is limited not simply to machine technology, but also to the built environment as well.     

There are several scenes where transparency is used to set up a dynamic between two characters or to reinforce the emotional state of a particular character, as seen in the holding cell sequence early in the film. Cameras shots oscillate between Ilona’s Bislane sister, smoking in the interview room, while the captain argues with his fellow officers about the researchers kidnapping. While all parties can see each other, Bislane receives only muffled, low sounds from the other room, heightening the viewers perception of her anxiety in this situation. A later scene between Bislane and Karas utilizes transparency in the form a massive, frameless windows that set the pair against the uninterrupted backdrop of Paris, of which the Eiffel still holds centre stage. This usage renders the two alone in the city, which itself serves only to support the growing love between the two of them. This is similar to usage in the film Equilibrium, where the first glimpses of beauty that John Preston sees with true feeling come after he has torn away the film from his window, revealing the city bathed in rain-split sunlight.

Transparency is also used to highlight the power and control that Avalon has over the citizens of Paris. Dellenbach, the corporate head has an office that hangs between the arc of the Avalon complex, with floors, walls, and ceilings rendered completely in glass. From this perch his vision is absolute and penetrating, from this seat the affairs of the cit and the company are guided. It is fitting that his assassins are clothed in suits that render them invisible to the eye, as they are the ‘invisible hand’ of Dellenbach. This usage of transparency to reinforce omnipotence or dominance is also found in the Shining, perhaps most effectively when Jack Torrence is staring blankly into a model of the hedge maze at the Overlook Hotel. As the audience views Wendy and Danny running through maze, there is a palpable sense that The maze seems to be rendered transparent – the hotel sees them, and thus so does Jack.  This use of transparency mirrors its use in Renaissance to establish unnatural powers of control possessed by characters in the films.



Michael Hasey

The use of silhouette in the movie Renaissance can be considered one of the driving forces behind its distinctive and dark character.  In addition the sense of time is tangled within the force of the silhouette.  Objects, people, and architecture are hidden within a blanket of darkness, hiding the defining characteristics of the future that most other sci-fi movies boast.

 In almost every scene, silhouette effectively manipulates the mood by reducing forms to featureless, jet-black shapes, giving the film a dark and gothic tone.  Although some detail still remains for identification purposes, the majority of the film exists as scarcely defined objects of darkness and shadow in a world deep within the bowels of future France.  This dark tone strikes uneasiness and wariness in the audience no matter the content of the actual scene. One thing I find very interesting about the use of silhouette is its ability to hide detail and complex form.  In a film like Renaissance, one would assume that the producers would want to show off the complexities and intricacies of future life and technology.  Rather, they seem to hide it behind the impenetrable shadow and darkness in silhouette, creating scenes that seem eerily familiar to the place and experiences today.  These manipulations allow the film to have a greater impact on the viewer by suggesting that such a place is actually not to far into the future, and perhaps just decades away. In films like Solaris and Equilibrium, the future is in full display and in its full glory.  Things are not hidden within eerie silhouettes and darkness; they are exposed to give a sense of complexity within an alien future.  The audience reacts to this with awe and uncertainty.  In this future environment, things seem more distant and unlikely.  However, Renaissance keeps the future at bay, by hiding it and holding it back with silhouette.  Time is tangled within scenes, sometime appearing as the future, sometimes appearing as the past, and sometime as the present.

Silhouette effectively tames time by hiding it within darkness and shadow.  Unlike other films that display the future with grandeur, Renaissance keeps the future at bay, and presents it as blend of past, future, and present.



Richard Kim

In both Solaris and Renaissance, the uses of reflection through mirrors, glass, and water were extensive. These reflections create a heterotopia, where these objects or surfaces start to shape the ways of conceiving the reflected image.

In Solaris, the mirrors and the lake are used as a introspective device. Characters, including the realized beings of desire and imagination, enter into a dialogue with the self-consciousness through this device. Forgotten emotions and memories are conjured up and the characters delve deeper into their dream-like moral realm.

Bislane lights up a cigarette in her apartment and talks to Karas looking out to the view outside. Through the reflection, personal emotions are heightened and the scene is rendered very intimate. From the reflected view, the viewer is with the person in action, perhaps in the perspective of the centre character, experiencing what is being watched in first person view.

Only the surfaces where sufficient light is touched is seen in the reflection at night scenes, and this diminished visibility in turn amplifies the attention by the viewers to the details of body language and facial expressions.

In Renaissance, the layering technique is well explored, effects usually hard to capture on film. Overlaying the half reflected face of Karas with that of Dr.Muller, and the conversations in Ilona’s apartment with the backdrop of tour de Eiffel are especially well captured.

 Without the shades of gray, (except in a couple of scenes), reflectivity on the glass, water, mirrors add great sense of depth and complexity to both form and performance. The multiplication of the one reflected as in the case of Karas entering a glass prison room is an example of mood accentuated using this technique.



Clayton Lent

A spotlight is usually used to manipulate a reality through revealing only that which is lit. In doing so an image, or scene is edited. It is usually created using a high intensity beam of light. This is contrasted with the highly directional low-light that is used for much of the scenes in Renaissance. In the world created for the film fire, smoke and illumination become white and create stark contrasts with almost everything else which is in turn black.

The clearest example of spotlight use in the film is when Dr. Muller’s corpse and Karas are lit from above in the high angle shot near the three-quarter mark of the film. In the intensity of the light no discernible detail of the ground plain can be seen. Two black figures, one dead and one beaten lay at an angle to each other at either end of the part of the illuminated ground plain that is shown. The effect is quite dismal (in reference to the tone of the image, not the quality). The scene possesses of the highest contrasts, and thus unembellished compositions in the film. That is, of course, besides the few scenes which include what is, in comparison to the other hour and a half of black and white, a shocking amount of colour. 

The use of spotlights to edit a scene can also be seen in the backlighting used in Equilibrium.  In the early scene when John Preston leaps through the door of a ‘sense-offence’ hideout the image is extremely edited. All that can be discerned is that his stance is offensive and he has two large hand guns.


Kevin Lisoy
"high angle"

High angle in the film Renaissance is very significant to show a different scale of human interaction.  Having a camera angle in Big Brother mode alludes to the corrupt mega-corporations and overpowered government swallowing up the human subjects.  Often the use of high angle allows the setting - or architecture  - to swallow up the subject but in this film I believe the angle relates better to how the characters are being treated.

Similar to the frustration-induced high angles in The Cube, and the zoom-out shots in Solaris, the high camera angles are generally used to scale down the characters to a helpless scale. In Renaissance, however, I believe that this is taken a step further when paired with the animation style of the film.  It gives the viewer a very artificial outlook on the future.  One thing that further emphasizes the camera angle of the film is the lack of color, which allows the viewer to digest the content through different camera angles.

An early sequence of the character in Renaissance going to a club to talk with her sister [left] begins with an unrealistic, slow pan shot from the corporation city down to the character.  This strongly emphasizes the insignificance of the character as she is contrasted against the massive machine-like scale of the megatropolis.

Another scene of a car chase begins with an overhead view of the chase and then skips to a bird’s eye view of the chase at the control center in an Avalon building.  It shows the bigger power of the corporation in complete control and observation of the chase (lower image to the left at the controls).  It reminded me of the Batman scenes where similar pans would be done against the backdrop of Gotham, at high angles, to show the insignificance of the people.  This would always be contrasted with low angle shots of the superhero against the backdrop of Gotham.

In our film study this term, this film seems to most closely compare to Equilibrium.  Although Equilibrium does use color, the general saturation of the film and extremely high/tall angles but people at such a miniscule scale that the film really becomes about how insignificant the characters are in the bigger scheme of the corporation.


Anne Ma
"low angle"

The use of the low-angle shot in cinematography is often used as a way of creating the notion of dominance and overpowering. The shot tends to expand the range of view and opens up the view to include not only the subject in focus, most often a character within the film, but also the settings by which the subject is compared to. Relative to a neutral shot in which the camera view is parallel with the subject, the low angle shot is definitely more dynamic and manipulative of the scene at hand.

Renaissance 2054 makes use of this technique during the car chase between Karas and the criminal who stole Ilona’s car. In this scene, the focus is Karas, and the setting is his car. The low-angle shot is able to emphasize Karas as a powerful and threatening character. Volckman’s application of this cinematic technique is able to manipulate the viewer’s perception of the character, showing him in a dominant position of pursuit even though his is not at the advantage as the criminal is way ahead. Although it is true that Karas eventually captures the criminal, this perspective is able to give a false sense of security that Karas is at the advantage relative to the actual reality of Karas having to go through a lot more trouble to catch the criminal.

Similar use of a low-angled camera technique to emphasize importance and dominance is observed in the film “The Shining” by Stanley Kubrick.  A good example of this is during Danny’s travels around the hotel on his toy tricycle in which the camera is shot from the ground looking at Danny from below. Danny is visualized as the most prevailing member of the scene. This is a manipulation of the reality that Danny is really just a single small individual in the vastness that is the Outlook Hotel.

The low-angle shot conclusively manipulates the viewer’s perception of space between the subject and the surroundings, causing a manipulation to the film’s reality of what is actually happening.


Emma Ma

The most apparent use of iconography in Renaissance is the use of familiar Parisian architecture in the film. Although the characters did not necessarily interact with these structures, the backdrop immediately sets the location of the film without excessive description.

The use of familiar monuments, such as the Thinker, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame, anchors the film in its believability as a possible future of the existing site. Viewing recognizable cultural pieces from angles which are not possible in the present or past reinforces the projection of the development of urban fabric. This is exemplified both in Renaissance and Equilibrium when Notre Dame is respectively seen from a worm’s eye view through a glass walkway and in a state of ruin.

The billboards and the maze of Thinker statues are iconic in their representation of the multiplicity of capitalist culture, which is prevalent in our current society, but perpetuates more deeply into the future of Renaissance. The first Avalon advertisement is seen rising from the city, above the architectural fabric, and the identical message fills the vision of the inhabitants of Paris 2054 (likewise the political dogma of Equilibrium). This is not unlike the state of our culture today; though with a variety of products, the same bombardment of information in audio and visual presentation are entrenched in our daily lives

Due to the focus on technology, the vision of the plot and characters tended to the two-dimensional side. The ideals of the future, such as the surveillance and hard of hard materials (steel and glass, vs. the ambiguity of soft materials, such as clothes) are typical the characters embody stereotypical roles of hero and villain, and the storyline was not developed to a point to invoke any sense of human empathy (typical mystery thriller, a dash of a love story, an unusual suspect for a villain), which makes the movie mildly predictable. However, this may only serve to emphasize the atmosphere of the future-oriented, technologically-focused intention of the film.


Christopher Mosiadz
"old city"

The old city of Paris, as depicted in the Renaissance, is at the ground plane of Christian Volckman’s portrayal of the futuristic vision of the city. Interestingly, the way the city expands in this world is by the vertical layering of buildings over top of the old. This manipulation of reality makes you start to question how the old city can sustain the load of infrastructure and buildings of the new city. This is so far detached from the reality we live in today because, other than skyscrapers, the planners of our cities think in terms of the ground, urban sprawl and the creation of the horizontal city.

In the Renaissance, the old city becomes this underworld of culture – a kind of residual memory of what Paris used to be. It is structured vertically, with a hierarchical division between the rich (at the top) and the working class (at the base). In order to experience the culture, history and the specificity of place of any city, you must investigate its roots. It is only then that we capture a glimpse of Paris as we know it today.

This is in direct parallel to Equilibrium because everything in the city is reminiscent of a utopian, dark world from above, but when you see the base layer/ the underground, you again get this glimpse of the old world that is still full of culture and emotion, masked by the present day Libria above. Similarly, we get the hierarchical division between the people that have adapted to the new way of life and those who have not.

In both films, we witness the covering up of the active and ever present old way of life in favor of a new way of life, for better or for worse. The reality is manipulated because what you see from the skyline or from above is just part of what the city is about. It isn’t until you explore the depths of these layers that you really gain a sense of the city and what it means to live there.


Tyler Murray


Brian Muthaliff

Renaissance is situated in the city. For most of the movie, buildings and street are most prevelant. The most intimate interaction with nature occurs when nature is blanketing the city and that is either rain or snow.

The city itself is dense and public spaces are glazed in an attempt to expand the space. Thus it seems a bit ironic that a place for a prison would be in a forest, the entity that is lacking within the city. The forest becomes a place of exile, and in terms of Ilona’s imprisonment, a place of serenity, isolation, to think about the choices she might be making to excel.

Solaris draws closest connection to this Idea of isolation. Solaris is a device for revealing thought into reality. The ship hosts a number of manifestations that have been called upon by its inhabitants through thought, but it is not through this phenomenon that I draw my connection. In the last scene of the movie, where the protagonist is on a island on Solaris, he finds himself in isolation, it is a natural setting most longed for and familiar with and thus he is left with his thoughts to reside there.

Both films use nature as a place of imprisonment as well as a catalyst for thought and reflection. Nature always exist outside of mans creation, and so in nature is where man can be utterly alone.      


Adam Schwartzentruber


Sam Sutherland

The materials present in Renaissance are not represented in a manner with which we are generally familiar. We usually see materials represented in film with more-or-less photorealism, but in Renaissance all the materials are rendered in combinations of a small range of black shades, shades of white, and NO shades of grey. As such, the reality which the film presents is highly stylized, as there is no one specific way to represent a material in black and white. Although we do not generally realize it, when we look at the real world with own our eyes, the image received on our retina are not simply projected into our minds in the “dumb” manner that an image is projected on a TV or movie screen. Like the mind of a newborn baby, a TV or even a computer does not actually understand what it is seeing. As we develop, certain portions of the visual cortex learn to recognize specific shapes, patterns, and motions and immediately attribute meaning to them. This happens in such a seamless manner that we take it for granted. Just look at these videos:

Even at our most sane, cool, and calculating, we do not perceive “reality”. We perceive lines, boarders, shapes, expressions, and motions which are brains are pre-programmed to attach meaning to, and from a purely philosophical perspective, there is no way we can really know that there is not a whole other level of significance and meaning in the bare “facts” that enter our eyes. There may be whole other realities before us of which we are unaware because our minds cannot process the physical indications of their existence. The fact that we can interpret stylized cartoon images and materials shows that a large portion of what we see with our own eyes is largely “unnecessary”. Renaissance portrays a reality where all the superfluous visual information is stripped away.

The image is comprehensible, but just barely.


Joon Yang

Renaissance, depicts transportation that is not much different from contemporary means. However, transportation in renaissance has tendency to be more closely equipped with other infrastructure of city and architecture. It also indicates technological advancement of 2050 Paris featured in this film, which we can easily relate to through transportation infrastructure that exist in current time period.

One example is the highway that has a span of glass floor above it. Here, fast movements of automobiles and slower movement of pedestrian above exist in parallel. The scene is a car chase scene between the main character and the suspect. They are travelling at extremely fast rate, bumping into each other. This poses a lot of potential danger, but the only thing that’s barricading the citizens from potential threat is a sheet of transparent glass. the fact the citizens are walking peacefully above them creates suspense that this danger might reach them any moment, and also creates an irony that such drastically different environment co-exist in a relatively close proximity. The glass later proves to be vulnerable when the suspect attempts shoot the main character below the glass. The glass floor starts to deteriorate, although not immediately, and citizens on the floor start to flee. The potential danger came closer to reality. Although the elements involved in this scene - highway, glass, and pedestrains walking- are very normal in today‘s world, the juxtaposition of these elements and technological advancement that is subtly implied - such as pedestrians above highway, and glass spanning a field of width without structural supports in between - portray the futuristic atmosphere of timeframe 2050.

Another example of this can be seen at the beginning of film, when canal spans at extremely high altitude in between buildings, supported by huge metal trusses. The idea of relatively big body of water lifted in high altitude, coming out of a tall tower and its trusses being connected to adjacent buildings, eventually framing the pedestrian path on the ground level, shows close relationship between transportation and infrastructure, implies technological advancement of the time.

Subway is another element that is common with today’s transportation, however it does have distinguished aspects. Such as streaming news on display boards, or fast incoming train making a sudden, yet smooth halt at the platform. follow subway track-discover the girl. Plot attribution


Ashley Wood

The film Renaissance 2054 uses technology as process for layering the over arching themes of dictatorship and the fountain of youth. Technology begins to build on the dictatorial theme by gradually setting up margins using the symbology of the bill board as the speaker, camera as the eye and the panopticon and the storage device or hard drive for the container of the personal belonging and information of the human race.

The city of Paris in the opening scene depicts a scattering of bill boards illustrating the dictatorial information of Avalon, a megacorporation of the 21 century. As the film moves into its entirety the audience is presented with the watchful eye and the quantity and depth of information that the computer possess. This eye is related directly back to the main director of Avalon as being the megalomanic who possess the power and control of life.

The film gives vital information to how technology has a presence over humanity at present, 2054 and the future of this date. This is further depicted when Iiona’s sister breaks into Avalon head quarters to extract vital information form the system and is shrouded in darkness. Darkness and the black render the human eye useless against the technological eye of night vision, used by the security guards.    
The second correlation to technology is made to the ethics of eternal life. Iiona, the scientist of Avalon who has been kidnapped, possess the key to eternal life. Dr. Muller, a scientist who has previously worked on this project warns of the impending danger and corruption to the cycle of life. He states that genetic research is fraught with implications to the human concise and that a return to the old system of methods is to be in connection with the ideas of historical humanity.    
Renaissance 2054, deploys the layer of technology as both a system to construct the modern day panopticon and as a threshold for ethical decision that humanity is faced with in the field of genetics. Technology as the undercurrent that is vital to the main theme of the film.


Giovanni Comi

Face is important for the movie and for the story the movie tells.

In my opinion, Renaissance introduce us in a kind of Neo-Expressionist movie. Thanks to use of black and white, without any grey scale colour, it reminds more of Fritz Lang's Metropolis than of Blade Runner. Set in a dark futuristic Paris in 2054, where architecture seems to refer to San'Elia drawings, the movie shows very well a world of shadows and contrasts. Paris is represented as a labyrinthic city where every deed and step is filmed and checked by an all-present organization, Avalon.

Ilona's kidnapping allows audience to have a tour of the city, that is very far from the romantic city people known; it has a deep dark soul. Indeed, the real main-character is the France capital, a mix of old and futuristic architectures.

As we are told at the beginning, Chris Volckman, using black and white, reminds us of a series of oppositions. Bislane, for example, is the mirror and the opposite of her sister, Ilona. The idea is that we can't choose from good or evil, we can just try to avoid the worse.

Faces play a fundamental role: they are the result of impact to volumes. Although, anyone is not completely good, there is always a darkside into these characters. Everybody is a mix of black and white, good and evil, or better still, we need to look at the face's side not covered by shadows to understand their real nature.

Talking about oppositions, at the  end of the film we also realise that beautiful faces aren't mirrors of beautiful people. Ilona is not so good as her angelic face tries to put across. Her face is represented almost without any shadows in many scenes, but this lack of shadows seems to be a lack of humanity.

Along all the movie we realize that there is a contrast between appearance and reality.

Face doesn't reflect the real behaviour and soul of human beings. In my opinion the movie overturns the Lombroso's idea.

Face plays a key role also in the making of the movie. Looking at the different facial expressions, we don't have the impression to watch a stop motion movie, but a real actor playing a role.

Finally, in my opinion, another movie in which the role of face, I mean the shot of face is important, is Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. As a matter of fact in this case, shooting faces, from unusual angles, catches the eye of fear or madness.


Miklos Csonti

‘Renaissance’, being an animated film, is not a movie that manipulates an existing reality in order to convey an alternate one; rather it tries to convey a reality out of nothing at all.  However, in order to successfully do so it has to imitate or even recycle elements of reality and adopt a universal language that the audience can relate to and understand.  The necessity to impregnate the characters with human-like qualities is therefore an obvious one; and the methods used to communicate these qualities can’t be any different from our own.

The eyes are the most expressive, and therefore also the most revealing feature on the human body.  They have the ability to communicate age, health, emotion, identity, and even consciousness.  It’s not by coincidence that they are often referred to as the windows to the soul.

This versatility of the eyes as an indicator of human-like qualities is thoroughly taken advantage of in ‘Renaissance’. The advertisement for the age-defying clinic of Avalon uses the transformation of the eye from old to young in order to sell their product.  When Ilona’s sister Bislane breaks into Avalon, the company’s security system uses an eye-scan as a method of identification. Also, on more than one occasion the dialogue between characters is animated and dramatized by close-ups of the eyes as they react with emotional expression.  Naturally in order to keep these sequences as realistic as possible, the animators even mimicked the eye-movements of the real-life actors used in the motion-capture recordings.  The final result is one that allows the audience to connect and maybe even sympathize with beings whose DNA is essentially made up of binary code.

While the eyes of the characters emphasise the presence of human-like qualities in ‘Renaissance’, the eyes of Jack Torrance in ‘The Shining’ act as a gauge to indicate the status of his sanity. Jack gradually goes through a state of transformation from a well-intentioned father/husband to a murderous disciple of the hotel. As this transformation is not a linear one, the audience is often left wondering what his current state of mind really is.  Well Jack Nicholson’s eyes certainly have a way of hinting whether we can remain calm or whether we should be scared, but most importantly they have the ability to make us feel uneasy and alert as they linger in a menacing grey-area.


Joel DiGiacomo

Renaissance is a thoroughly formulaic film with one tremendously redeeming feature: its stylized animation format. The visuals are extremely innovative and engaging, while everything else —the plot, the characters, the camera angles, the music— takes a more conventional approach.

The emotion of the characters is, as stated by the filmmakers in The Making Of video, central to all action in the film. Each of the characters’ mood, circumstances, and interactions has a corresponding emotional response that is presented in typical fashion. For example, if the emotion is more intense, the shot is closer, or in some cases, simply involves more camera movement. With the exception Ilana’s first encounter with the simulated forest, every emotion is matched with the expected musical score. Because the plot is relatively complex, and the visuals often distracting, the directors seem to have employed every other cinematic element as straight–forwardly as possible in order to spell out the action as clearly as possible.
Other films we’ve seem this term aren’t so direct in their approach. The Shining often contrasts the action with other cinematic elements to create a sense of unease. For example, obviously tense on–screen dialogue is presented in ordinary, medium close–up camera shots, while a rather mundane action sequence is often paired with extremely tense music. In Solaris, Tarkovsky gives his characters ample time and space to allow the audience to relate to their situations, and relies on the truth of these realities to engender an emotional response, both from the characters and the audience.


Ryan Yeung

Renaissance is a recent film, and as a recent modern day film, it tends to depict action sequences in an overtly grand portrayal with emphasis on tension and spectacle. In this way we can see it as a close resemblance with Equilibrium in that the action sequences which almost always involves the use of guns, are quick and flashy. They demonstrate the brutality of violence with loud noises and swift but strong impact.

Typical of an action film, blood is not emphasis despite the abundance of violence throughout the story. This is to take away from the idea of death (that is taken care of by drama) and instead to implement the devices of struggle and tension to further the storyline. The chase sequence when Karas pursues Ilona’s stolen vehicle acts as a struggle in which violent behaviour manifests.

Violence becomes a means of unfolding reality and uncovering the truth. Violence is also the catalyst in which the story begins, the reality that is then manipulated. Ilona is forcefully kidnapped through the first act of violence. From there, the controversial and aggressive nature of Karas begins to search for truth through the use of violence. Establishing his character right away with the hostage scene where he successfully eliminates the hostages, his character begins to unfold with the chase scene, interrogation scene, reckless entrance into the arboretum, and countless other acts of brutality. It is this device that allows the truth to be exposed and the story to be told.

It is interesting as well, to see that throughout the film we are given the impression that Ilona is the one that needs to be rescued. We are assured under the film’s premise that Ilona will undoubtedly be saved and a happy ending will unfold. But we soon find this as a mask for the true realities of the story, in the Muller, the kidnapper, is actually trying to save the world. Though this is morally ambiguous, this revelation of the cure for mortality turns our views upside down and questions whether Karas should really be saving her. And, in the final act of violence, which is contrasted in the brute force of the other action sequences, Ilona is portrayed villainously when the true reality of revealed, and murdered by Karas in a clean and slick fashion as her body smoothly slinks onto the ground with grace.


Alejandro Fernandez





Tanya Fuize
"musical score"

When talking about Paris, usually the first thing that comes to mind is the city of romance, beauty and art. In Renaissance, what is seen as the future of Paris is a cold, creepy and dark city full of crime. This movie is subjected to manipulate our familiar perception of the city and of the future.  The role that the music plays is relatively dominant in presenting and transferring this sense of manipulation.

The opening starts by a classical music score which is familiar and recognizable for audiences. But the Renaissance is a sci-fi futuristic movie with a new and unique technique of animation. The whole movie is in an unfamiliar deep contrast of black and white and when it is defined by a classic music at the very beginning, it represents the madness is to be followed. The sudden changes of the music type, for example from the harmonically classic to an electronic genre in the club 71, represent a tense and uneasy fantasy .At the plot where the barman is surrounded by invisible figures the musical score is the main factor of transferring the sense of violence and terror. Moreover, the music and unfamiliar background sounds add to the insanity of the movie. However, the high contrast images are perfectly reinforced by the ups and downs of the musical scores.

The opening title of Renaissance attracts the viewer’s attention with cold and ghostly vocals advertising for Avalon while the soft tone of the music covers and hides the darkness beneath the sounds. In “Farrella’s world” the Arabic touches in the music, smoothly overlays the previous electronic beats and gradually extends into the next scene and makes the viewers ready for the following mysteries.

The touch of the music in emphasizing the manipulation of the architectural spaces was also very vivid in the shining and also the Lisbon story. Although these three are very different in the subject and are completely unrelated in the spaces used and the feeling that they wanted to transfer, but in all of them music and background sounds were very obviously supporting the theme.


Holland Young
"the vision of the director" - you can relate this or contrast it to a theatrical production

During the Making of Renaissance featurette (originally a French television special about the film) the motion picture’s visual style is described as “where technology, traditional design and madness meet”.  In what was a very untraditional inception, Renaissance was originally conceived as a medium for the exploration of innovative black and white animation, motion capture technology, and the team’s picture of a futuristic Paris.  In this case, the story was secondary: required only as a traditional base for, and means to convey, these technological aspirations and vision of the future.  For this reason, the narrative follows a classic and involved film noir structure, complete with femme fatales, lonesome detectives, seedy crime bosses and evil villains.  This familiar genre, along with the archetypal characters, provides an effective (if unoriginal) foundation for audiences to use to explore the film’s visual fantasies, which may have proven too surreal for the average movie viewer without the incorporation of these recognizable narrative elements. 

renaissanceThe movie’s strength is not in its plot or script (which feel a little contrived and unnecessarily involved), but in its atmosphere.  The film’s visuals are remarkable.  The director’s vision comes alive in this stylized, high-contrast environment which reads like a living, breathing graphic novel. The dark, murky, stylized template of Renaissance’s future Paris makes engaging use of transparency and is well supplemented by skillfully employed, lurid lighting techniques.  Constant manipulation of black and white, shadow and light, provides a perpetually moving visual mosaic in which to display the complex animations and settings of the movie.  Sophisticated, modern architecture is integrated into the existing fabric of the city and linked using a labyrinth of passages: the result is a hauntingly masterful science fiction environment in which the technological aspirations of the film’s creators can be fully explored and articulated. 

The main contrast between the vision behind Renaissance and that behind most theatrical productions, along with most other movies we have watched this term, is that, rather than starting with a visual goal and building a narrative in order to achieve that goal, traditional live theatre starts with a story and then find the best technology and/or imagery to portray said story.  Another difference is the variation in scale of the settings involved in the film verses those which are involved in live theatre.  The power behind the director’s vision of a futuristic Paris is often established with striking, sweeping shots of the city from a distance, which would not be possible to translate into a stage environment where scale is often limited by a constructed set’s relationship to the human players.  One last major difference between the vision for Renaissance versus that for typical live theatre that I want to highlight is use of colour.  While Renaissance is able to use extreme angles, other virtual camera tricks, and a formulaic film noire storyline to convey atmosphere, live theatre often uses colour to evoke the same types of responses from the audience.  Although set paint and good stage makeup could turn a theatrical production black and white, much would be lost without the ability to use colour in order to translate the smoky lounge feeling of the nightclub or the surreality of Ilona’s virtual prison.

renaissanceDespite all there differences, there are still a few minor things that this type of animated film and live theatre have in common.  For instance, I found it was sometimes hard to read the emotions on a characters face rendered only in black and white.  In the theatre it can be similarly hard to read an actor’s emotions because of the distance between the player and the audience that the stage environment entails.  Another similarity between the two types of storytelling technology is a sense of detachment from the characters they evoke.  Animation, especially black and white animation, is removed enough from the realistic visual experiences of our everyday lives to keep us from identifying too much with the alternate reality of the film.  A theatrical production inspires the same sort of distance from reality for its audience because you can never move with the characters, seeing things from their point of view and moving seamlessly from scene to scene.  You can only look upon them, framed by the wings of the stage, in a stationary setting that reads more like a moving painting.  Furthermore, it must often incorporate various scene changes in order to portray the various settings for the action of the narrative, which sometimes disrupt the flow of the play’s storyline.


John Lee
"motion capture"

While Renaissance is the only film we’ve studied in the course that uses the motion capture technique, there are similarities in the way Renaissance uses the technique to manipulate reality and in the manipulated realities of the first “city films” we watched this term, Berlin and Man With A Movie Camera.

When considering the discussion topic, I made an instinctual comparison with Solaris, drawing similarities between the apparitions created by Solaris, like Hari, and the frequent use of holograms in Renaissance. Rather than “motion capture”, however, the holograms and Hari are “captured motion”; they are alternate realities within a primary reality, but don’t directly relate to the way in which motion capture manipulates reality.

Motion capture is the technique in which actors wear special suits with reflective sensors that allow computers to track their movements and plot them in a Cartesian system. The animators of Renaissance used this data as a base for their CG characters, achieving a level of realism that would be difficult with animation alone.

This concept of robotizing people is also apparent in Berlin and Man With A Movie Camera. In both films, the citizenry of Berlin and Moscow, respectively, are secondary to the machines and even the architecture of the cities. Both directors, while attempting to glorify the modernity and technical prowess of their cities, dehumanize the real people captured in their films. Early on in Man WIth A Movie Camera, for example, a mannequin is seated at a sewing machine, implying the evolution of the machine beyond a human master. This is contrasted later by a woman sewing, rather painstakingly, by hand. Vertov demonstrates that his vision of Moscow has moved beyond a “human” time frame: in the blink of an eye, a couple can get married, then divorced, and life can quickly turn to death—all while the machine that is the city continues on. Berlin emphasizes this uneasy relationship between man and machine in a scene in which jaywalkers struggle to cross a busy street, faced with oncoming trams and automobiles. Berlin and Moscow project the mechanized ideal of the early 20th century, in which the standardization and dehumanization of their populations are acceptable in the name of progress.



Raja Moussaoui
"animation of places"

The film ‘Renaissance 2054’ is set in an imagined Paris of the near future. In rendering this manipulation of reality to project this futuristic look, the makers of the film drew animations of an imagined city. This imagined city was not drastically different from present day Paris; futuristic looking buildings were presented in well known Parisian vistas, but the city was nevertheless still distinctive and recognizable.  Animation was used to elegantly render these changes, which would have been far more difficult and less convincing if done to look realistic. What is significant is that the notion of a futuristic Paris is easy to accept because of the style of animation used in the film. Since the film was made in high contrast black and white, without the use of shadow, even the scenes of ordinary streetscapes and interior spaces were stylized. The transition from these stylized compositions, set in realistic situations, to the view of the semi-futuristic city is a smooth one, and it is not difficult for viewer to accept the film as fiction without being offended or overly distracted by the changes to the familiar Parisian imagery.

Similarly, the film ‘Berlin: Symphony of a Great City’ presents Berlin in a new way by animating the scenes order to present a new reality of citylife. Although this film is not an animated film like ‘Renaissance’ the close shots of the machine parts moving, and the rhythm of these movements in sync to the music playing, abstract the view of the city enough to make ordinary looking objects seem part of a bigger, living, breathing being. This abstraction provides an interesting way to animate the place of a city, and manipulate reality. However it may have seemed less comprehensible had it not been for the careful sequencing of scenes leading to the more animated/abstracted portions of the film. The sequence of filming the moving train coming into the city, followed by the shots of the streets in the morning, gradually builds towards the more unusual scenes of the machinery’s relentless movement which really allow us to understand the city as a living entitiy. Like in Renaissance, this animation of place works because of its appropriate transition from slight abstracted to noticeably significant manipulation of reality.

These films both present a vision of the future. ‘Renaissance 2054’ literally uses drawn animation to project a city of the future, while ‘Berlin, Symphony of a Great City’ uses camera angles, repetitive movements, and rhythms to animate places through abstractions, in order to present a vision for a city of the future. Both are successful in their manipulations of reality because the respective filmmakers managed to sensitively create animations which were convincing, if only for the duration of the film.



updated 27-Dec-2009 1:14 PM

back to arch and film fall 2009