of An Architect
last updated December 28, 2004
|I have been there.||I have not....|
Adriana De Angelis
I have been there. I have not....
Up to this point in the course, the landscapes and architectural settings in the films we have seen have been largely fictitious. Although they may have been based upon impressions of the medieval town or future vision of New York, there is no place in the film where you can in reality feel "I have been here". Having visited a place, rather than seen it in pictures, affects your viewing of the place in a film. There are often times when your mind wanders whilst viewing, in remembrances of your experience of the place.
The Belly of An Architect, as well as the upcoming films that are set in Paris, will be able to evoke these differences of experience. For this film, based upon my detective-like sleuthing, I am assigning you to groups based upon your experience level of the city of Rome. In addition to having the Italian masters students with first hand experience of a place they have lived in as ordinary citizens, we also have the experience of the Masters students who have lived in Rome as "more than tourists".
I have not done this before, but my intention is to frame the discussion questions more generally to evoke a comparative discussion based on the differentiated experience of the space. Therefore, I will be pairing student to answer a single question -- one who has and one who has not visited the space. Any undergrads that are incorrectly assigned, please let me know asap so that I can rearrange my list. firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you been to Paris? On the same line of potential questioning with respect to Alphaville, Diva and Playtime, I would like to know of your experience level of Paris before I make up these questions.
Also, I am trying to arrange a FinalCutPro seminar in the next couple of weeks. In light of the class time that will be required for that to take place, one of the upcoming weeks will combine questions to free up one class from discussion time. I will let you know when I have a date.
The pairs of students below are assigned a pair of images from the film, plus a keyword or set of keywords. Don't consider yourself limited to referring to the images assigned (I only have so much space) as there are many more from the film that could be added to your clue set. Make sure you look at the images BELOW your names.
You are NOT to confer ahead of time. Prepare your discussion (keep it to less than 400 words please) based on the frame of reference, I have been there or I have not been there. You will both be giving answers in class and we will be comparing the nature of the answer to see how it relates to the impressions of the film based upon personal experience of a place, or lack thereof.
|1. Chang, Clementine + Armstrong, Anne-Marie -- foreshadowing|
The Belly of an Architect is visually stimulating and memorable, which works extremely well where the technique of foreshadowing is employed. Early scenes are composed to leave vivid marks in the viewer’s memory by using strong symmetry, recurring geometry and the general impressive ways of Rome.
For example, the opening scenes cleverly foreshadowed Stourley Kracklite’s inevitably destiny. On the train into Rome, the scenery of the hillside cemetery sprinkled with the many crucifixes created a feeling of unease. From that point onwards, the viewer anticipates conflict and chaos to erupt. The film comes full circle at the end when Stourley falls out the window to end his life. He does so in a Christ-like position echoing the crucifixes from the start of the film.
the entire film, the recurrence of round forms is evident. They allude
to the spherical constructions designed by Etienne-Louis Boullée
and form strong impressions on the viewer early in the film. The beginning
scene of Stourley lying down with his dome-shaped belly clearly displayed
after making love to his wife introduces a chain of round forms to come.
The dome-shaped cake at the first dinner in front of the Pantheon is one
example. In fact, the Pantheon itself also served to remind the viewer
of round forms, even without actually revealing its famous dome. The image
of the crumbled dome cake foreshadowed the deterioration of Stourley,
soon to be manifested by his stomach pains. Further, Louisa’s pregnant
belly also contributes to the list of recurring round forms. The parallel
timing of Stourley’s death cycle and his child’s birth cycle
worked to foreshadow each other simultaneously, as the plot yearns for
an instinctual balance of events.
Richly symbolic imagery provides The Belly of An Architect with several opportunities to employ foreshadowing, which is accomplished through the employment of shifts in scale from the strong geometry or symbols presented towards the films focus, Kracklite.
The film opens with images pertaining to death, in the form of several crucifixes, set against the landscape, followed by the scale shift to that of two gravesites, displaying photographs of the deceased. These images immediately speak to the viewer of the potential for tragedy to unfold. Retaining the memory of these two images, we are next introduced to Kracklite in the throes of a sexual encounter with his wife on his way into Italy by train, traveling through the landscape towards the city. As an audience, we are presented with the round spherical ‘dome’ that is his stomach. Retaining the memory of the two initial images and connecting them to the introduction of the protagonist, the film foreshadows Kracklite’s ultimate and painful struggle and his eventual demise due to a cancer of the stomach.
image of Kracklite’s prominent paunch becomes the focus of the film
as it unfolds. The image of the Pantheon, of which a dome-shaped cake
is set against, connects again, abstractly, back to the form of Kracklite.
Thus, when the cake is ultimately abandoned in a state of ruin, we are
able to make connections back to Kracklite and his destiny. This is reinforced
later in the film, because shortly after this scene, Kracklite begins
to deteriorate, he begins to suffer from excruciating stomach pains, vomiting
everytime he eats.
+ Bedard, Joshua -- symmetry of "place"
The symmetry of the Pantheon is striking, the execution, given its massive scale – breathtaking. My memory of this well known relic was made all the more intimate by the enormous amount of time I spent sketching and photographing every crevice of her beauty. My intention was to create a digital version that would compliment its precision. I was humbled by the complexity of what appeared to be an incredibly simple parti. Incredibly ornate, yet restrained, the parti was so simple, a sphere inside a box – a figure of accuracy. Eventually I became asphyxiated in its complexity and abandoned the project in the best interest of my sanity.
The sheer scale was astonishing, the tactility of the stone smooth and silky. The pediment stood proud amongst the piazza, it seemed to float amongst the clouds, engrained in the stone, a tribute to Marcus Agrippa. The forest of columns amid the entrance were incomprehensible, pictures do not even begin to describe the sheer mass they possessed. Clasping my arms against them barely even accounted for one-eighth their circumference. The stone was cool, yet comforting; the veins were worn and smooth. I spent hours studying the structure supporting the pediment, massive wooden beams, thousands of years old, yet still as strong as the day they were placed.
The doors were astonishing, also enormous in scale, they required the strength of at least three or four men to open or close. The iron that protruded was worn from centuries of use. The hinges were about the length of my leg! The wood itself was magnificently intact and un-weathered. The entrance made you feel like you were entering a sanctuary built for the gods.
The first spectacle that demands your attention upon entering is the intense glow of the sun streaming in through the oculus above. Its beauty is both breathtaking and mesmerizing; I stood there for hours, starring as the world continued to move around me. The coffered ceiling had such depth and created such striking shadow lines; if I were to reach out my hand I could have felt the touch of the cold shadowy stone above. The sheer precision and placement of the drainage wholes in the floor were astonishing, maybe more so, the fact that they were even conceived of at all. Standing in the centre was like standing at the centre of the universe; and reaching into the centre when rain was coming through the oculus was an especially serendipitous event. It was amazing to see the rain concentrated and controlled at such a large diameter. Amongst the midst of the restoration were still pieces that showed their original state. At the base of the dome was a fabulous colonnade, although rhythmic in progression, this apparently had been altered over time. Beneath the colonnade, were large vertical columns; between the columns, the tomb of the Rafael and several other kings. Finally the alter, stood directly opposite the entrance; in front were about fifty carefully placed chairs, fenced off with red velvet ropes and remarkably shiny brass poles. Lit almost entirely by ambient light, the interior of the Pantheon was an incredibly serene sanctuary. Every surface hard, yet rich with colour; cool to the touch, and incredibly smooth and inviting. The exaggeration of scale made me feel like I was truly a mouse amongst my surroundings.
December 21, 2002 was the last day I sat inside the Pantheon, and I sat there watching, studying, for almost five hours straight, I took three hundred and ninety-four photos, and filled three quarters of a sketchbook with notes and drawings – I will never forget that day for as long as I live.
In Greenaway’s film the viewer is constantly confronted with numerous symmetrical frames. This starts within the film immediately. Right at the beginning we see a shot that focuses in on a street symmetrically framed by two classical Roman buildings. Then in the centre we see the title of the film appear. This is how most of the symmetrical shots within the film are constructed. They usually consist of a framed view with a left side that very closely mirrors the right side. These masses help create a focal point that ultimately provide a sense of place within the film. In most of these symmetrical shots Greenaway heavily relies upon the symmetrical order of classical architecture and monuments to establish the focal point. This focal point becomes a very powerful spot in which we commonly observe the main character, Stourley Kracklite, an egotistical architect.
Just as Greenaway takes us into the life of his main character he also intrigues us into the city of Rome. Through the use of symmetry he begins to create a parallel of power between the main character and the city. We begin to see the quest for power and order throughout the film. We start to believe that Rome is all about its historical and pristine classical architecture. We start to believe that these buildings make Rome what it is. We begin to see the power these buildings posses. However, as the main character begins fall sick we also start to see more modern buildings. Unlike the classical buildings these modern buildings (some of which I know very little of) leave me with no connection to the city of Rome. Unlike the classical buildings, these non-symmetrical buildings do not posses the same sense of power. In this sense the lack of symmetry helps depicts Kracklite’s decline in power.
Greenaway uses symmetry to place myself within the Rome that I am familiar
with. This is the Rome we most commonly identify through architectural
history books. Again and again these books show the power, order and focal
points created by classical architecture. However, I feel ignorant and
less connected to present day Rome. For this reason when the symmetrical
frames and buildings begin to dwindle and we see more modern artefacts,
I begin to feel more distant and ignorant of present day Rome.
|x||3. Gibson, Nancy + Bolen, Matthew -- foreshadowing coupled with "bookending"||x|
Nancy Gibson: Foreshadowing coupled with Book-ending
The movie begins with the Pantheon looming in the background of a dinner during which, the project of Stourley Kracklite, an unknown, contemporary architect, is introduced.. The image of the pound note, lost in the dome cake and burned by the candles, foreshadows financial ruin and the disease of the architects stomach. This setting is repeated at the impending death of Kracklite and the loss of his project to the Italian rival. In the alternate scene, Kracklites stomach cancer has been established and he is no longer in control of the exhibition. The pantheon looms in the background as permanent as ever suggesting the insignificance of modern man against the massive legacy of the past. The massive architecture of the Vittorio Emmanuel monument punctuates the film, dividing it into episodes. It divides his experience in Rome into small bites of his life as it deteriorates around him. He feels he’s being poisoned. He suspects he’s dying but the doctors are dismissive. He begins to write postcards to a dead architect. The project is removed from his control and finally he kills himself. The Vittorio Emmanuel monument remains eternal (at least until the film rots).
The two images
provided are clear examples of how both foreshadowing and book ending
are used in this film.
|4. Olivia Keung + Brown, Liam -- symmetry combined with use of colour|
The role of symmetry in the film serves a purpose that is directly linked to that of the colour white: both elements present Kracklite’s early vision of Rome, a place of stability and eternal, unchanging history. It is the textbook version of a city where architecture can measure man’s exact position in the universe. Kracklite begins the film certain of his own position: he enters Italy as a celebrated architect with a beautiful wife; his confidence gives him the ability to believe in the geometric perfection of Étienne-Louis Boulée’s architecture, although most of it was never even realized. Kracklite is able to work on his exhibition for ten years without questioning its relevance in the modern world.
Having been in Rome will perhaps give the viewer the advantage of understanding the flaws of this vision more blatantly. Through the experience, one realizes that when such an idealized vision, such as the Pantheon, becomes realized as architecture, its existence exposes it to the imperfections and chaos of reality. In truth, the Pantheon is riddled with bullet holes and other signs of decay; even the vision it carries has been marred by its conversion into a Christian temple. It is also surrounded by cafés and banks, signs of change and newer visions such as the arches of McDonald’s that faces the monument audaciously: all of these things have been edited out by Kracklite’s stubborn vision. Similarly, the balanced view of the clean, white monument of Vittorio Emanuele is, in reality, something that can only be attained from across the chaos of traffic and tourism in Piazza Venezia.
It is appropriate that Kracklite’s idealism begins to deteriorate at Hadrian’s villa, a place where the emperor celebrates the world for its variety instead. The injection of colour also shows the invasion of elements that threaten Kracklite’s solid beliefs. Kracklite in his bright red pyjamas reveals himself as a foreign agent, ridiculed by his Italian peers who do not hold Boullée in the same regard. Flavia’s red couch is the place where Kracklite cheats on his wife, amidst the black and white photographs on the wall that are posed and frozen. Kracklite’s eventual downfall is metaphorically reflected in the chaos that he eventually comes to see in Rome, a city that Boullée never travelled to or learned to understand.
the film the majority of framed views or vignettes that pose symmetry
are of a positive and negative arrangement: specifically black and white.
Where white may represent the purity of Rome, in its calculated form and
structure, the black is often in the shadows, helping to create a bold
contrast or silhouette often between Kracklite and his setting. Accented
red later builds these framed shots and add to their significance. In
|5. Julia Farkas + Chau, Tammy -- bellies...|
Greenaway uses the image of the belly numerous times throughout the movie to explore the source and sustenance of our humanity. The movie repeatedly narrates back and forth between the corporeal bellies of Kracklite, his wife and his idol - Etienne Boullee, and those of urban morphology- the void of the piazza, the dome of the Pantheon, the tomb of Augustus….. They all resemble the expanding space of our insides as they swell with the sound of a huge mass or dwindle to the silence of a single inhabitant. The film, however, always keeps us outside of these architectonic spaces, marveling at their beauty from without, just as Kracklite obsesses over the untouchable intestines of Boullee. The connotation of the belly here conceivably deals with the theme of lineage. His obsession with Boullee’s belly is perhaps a vain attempt to seek the patronage of his beloved mentor, in effect to begin to understand the character behind the image.
Furthermore, the belly acts as the source of life and death in the film. Likewise, the bellies of Rome are the scenes of life and death in the city; the piazza, the church, the spaces of congregation are the sites of urban existence.
of the film follows Kracklites’ child from conception to birth while
watching him suffer death, perhaps a necessary course of events in order
to bring life to his creation. The theme of sustenance returns here once
again. The belly an organ that is suppose to be the source of his nourishment
however, is what in the end consumes him.
|6. Adriana De Angelis + Czypyha, Shane -- framing as manipulation|
Adriana De Angelis -- Framing as manipulation
Peter Geenway came to Rome in a difficult moment of his life, while undergoing a severe nervous break-down; his film, The belly of an Architct, was directed right after. It is notorious that the vision of anything when suffering, expecially when cancer, depression or obsession occur, is completely different from the one any person would have in moments of perfect health. When ill, sickness becomes the frame of anybody’s life that results manipulated and focused only on peculiar topics, in a distort, haunting and maniac way. Illeness it’s definitely like watchig the whole world through a telescope and that’s exactly the way Greenway wants us to look at his film and at the city of Rome, forcing us to concentrate our interest only on his vision of things. The empty, iconographic, magnificent, actually nonexistent Rome that interests him is the one of the two moments of its splendour and decadence where the leading character is completely alone with himself: the Imperial/pagan and the Baroque/catholic. Two focal moments that reflect the splendour and decadence of an architect, Kraklite, and of a film director, Peter Greenway. Everything and everybody, even Hadrian and August, Boullée and Newton, around the protagonist architect (isn’t a film director sort of an architect too?) reflects his feelings, his fears, his thoughts, his life. The film is a continous demonstration of how Greenway skilfully handles Rome, its inhabitants, actors and public through his story. Emblematic of what we are trying to say are two particular takes: the first at the beginning and the second at the end of the film. In fact, the modern pic-nic held by all the charcters in one of the few remaining buildings of Villa Adriana, because of the particular frame, it’s magically transformed by Greenway into one of this almost indecent banquets of the Imperial Rome where everything is sick, particularly people that participate. At the same way, probably knowing the idea that was already of Le Corbusier, using an artificial fabric camera set between two columns of the huge Vittoriano’s balcony, excluding all the buildings and domes of the breathtaking view, Greenway artfully directs our regards on the only two he is interested in: Saint Peter and Sant’Agnese in Agone. Is this his way to indicate a desire of rebirth to a new, more spiritual, healthier and just way of life?
What is your impresson of the conflict in the film as it relates to the representation of the Italians and their relationship with the Americans?
Stereotype it’s just another form of illness, exactly like cancer, depression and obsession. It’s a frame that manipulates people’s thiking. While as an illness I consider it indispensable for the story Greenway is telling us, it’s to me absolutely incomprehensible in any day life from which should be banned. I think the world is sufficiently adult and with no barriers anymore to start looking at people as individuals and not as representatives of different nations, admitting that we’re all the same, with the same fears, the same thoughts, the same dreams, the same faults, the same souls.
of Rome, as presented in Peter Greenaway’s “Belly of an Architect,”
is framed as a place dominated by singular elements and focuses set into
a consistent homogenous fabric. Greenaway manipulates shots so that the
cinematography reveals only a fraction of the place and the stories that
accompany. The focus is left on the main character, Sturley Kracklite’s
|7. Francesco Mancini + Drago, Natalie -- architectural enclosure combined with "framing" and continuity|
Rome: Seven Postcards and a bill
di Augusto, morning
Adriana, late evening
del Lavoro, noon
Natalie Drago: Architectural enclosure combined with framing and continuity.
In both scenes the architecture is the physical element that encloses, while Stourely becomes the enclosed object and the framed subject. His mental state in each case is altered or affected by being enclosed although the qualities of the two enclosures are in comparison and contrast with eachother. Enclosed space alludes to framing by nature of its own physical framework.
By means of his body language we are able to determine the weight of the enclosures he subjected to. In the arched hallway the atmosphere is dark heavy and overbearing and speckled with small traces of light. There he bends and is ill. It is as though he is responding in a guttural fashion to the negative aura and feel of the space as well as portraying the illness that inflicts him. Singling this shot out we may even analyze that his actions demonstrate his physical and mental condition, the mental condition affects by the space he occupies in which he is oppressed and enclosed.
In the lighter,
airier corridor enclosure, flanked by tall sturdy concrete columns, Stourely
again remains subject to his condition in terms of his physical setting
and physical ailments. More light penetrates this semi-enclosed space
and overall it feels lighter and less imposing. This space is less oppressive
than the previously mentioned. Although he is still sick we see that here
he stands erect and can deduce that his physical environment has greater
influence, power and meaning beyond that of just setting in this plot.
Still his eyes are downcast as previously, reiterating his condition and
mental state and the fall out of the plot and his character.
Scenes are constructed by fitting and uniting smaller parts of a larger structure similar to the bones of the human skeleton. In each shot Stourely’s posture resulting form reflects and defines the structural principals of the corridors, whether arched or erect in nature. Form always eluding the physical properties either found in nature or the human body. The exposed structure, the skeleton, the body, death and decay.
framework is based on the principal of a frame within a frame. Delivering
a sense of perspective, an outlook, an understanding, an analogy, a response
and sense of enclosure. All these responses to setting are inherent to
the human psyche’s abilities, visual, sensorial and temporal analysis
of distances, proportions, materiality, weight and lightness and darkness.
The progression through the space is accompanied by a succession of columns in each photo strengthening the aspect of continuity in the film and the architecture. There is an uninterrupted connection between subject, enclosure, event and plot in each shot. There is also an uninterrupted connection between the regulated rhythms of the arches and the regulated rhythm of the body as he vomits. The regulated sound ‘thud’ by the tall open columns in the rectilinear corridor an they reach the ground and the thud of Stourely’s body when he hits the car roof.
The roof structures above his head, weather rounded or flat join the corridors to the larger buildings and the setting link the events to a bigger picture. Th seeming endlessness of the corridors, the seeming endlessness of Stourely’s obsession with stomachs, all events and spaces or setting melding to form unity.
Therefor continuity in the architecture has been achieved through rhythm, succession of columns and spaces, design, materiality and style. While the scripts or scenarios, story, or dialogue are unified through acts, postures, costumes, style and demeanors demonstrating continuity in the plot. The architecture and themes and moments in the film work hand in hand indetermanently and continuously. Themes persist architecturally and thematically, form unions, rereveal themselves and reoccur throughout an uninterrupted duration, without any essential change, strengthening the aspect of continuity within the film by means of setting or plot. The element of architectural combined with framing and continuity defines shapes the film, while developing and unfolding along side Stourely enhancing and describing the trials and tribulations of his battle with cancer and failed interpersonal relationships. In themselves, these elements define and describe an era of architecture, an outlook and philosophy prevalent in the past and present Roman culture appropriately adopted for an art film of this nature, characterized by its brutality and exploration into the darker realm of social dynamics, interpersonal relationships and obsession.
8. Christian Tognela + Krejcik, Andrea -- use of colour and photographic images
Christian Tognela -- A Walk Through...The Belly of an Architect
Andrea Krejcik: Question: Colour and photography in Belly of an Architect. Using these aspects in the film, describe your experience of Rome based on the fact that you have never been there?
Set in Rome,
the movie, Belly of an Architect, is a film showcasing the beauty of Rome
in very distinct and purposeful ways. Colour is used greatly in order
to convey a message to the viewer. It not only enhances and brings contrast
to the scenic images laid throughout the film, but it also sharpens the
main points of the plot. Photography is another medium used with significance
throughout Belly of an Architect to provoke and capture ideas within the
|9. Federica Martella + Liu, Vivien -- symbolism|
Belly of An Architect” includes themes as aesthetics of Art and
Architecture, the limits and possibilities of mortality and immortality,
and the influence of obsession and omens. As in all of Greenaway's films,
symbolism, parallelism, allegory, and striking but static visual compositions
are the order of the day.
image selected from the film shows Kracklite standing at the top of the
stairs inside the Vittoriano, the monument of Victor Emanuel.
the contours of the body of an organism, whose genetic resources include
the limits within which his growth will be contained, so in the elements
that constitute the structure of the culture are included the limits of
its ‘wholeness’. Every architectural structure has the tendency
to ‘grow’ up till becoming a whole” (J. Lotman, 1998).
Greenaway, in his “The Belly of an Architect”, focuses less on storyline but rather emphasizes the poetic qualities of Rome’s splendid architecture. As a viewer who has not experienced in real life the grandeur of Rome’s architectural treasures, the film provides a poignant introduction through not only the use of visual communication but also through a mesmerizing musical score. The major spaces of the Vittoriano have especially been familiarized to the viewers as many scenes take place within the same spaces in the building, both in the interior and on the exterior. This signifies the eternal existence of Rome’s architecture – the events within them are ephemeral, while the form retains its splendor and remains constant.
The first image depicts Kracklite standing in a posture reminiscent of Christ in front of a window in the Vittoriano – it bears a symbolic meaning of a heroic death. This becomes clear at the end of the film when the scene is repeated as Kracklite ends his life by falling through the window in the same posture. At the same time, his exhibition dedicated to his hero Boullee is completed, and his wife gives birth to his child. Kracklite’s white outfit contrasts with the black suits of other men, and creates a sense of holiness together with his Christ-like posture.
The second image is when Kracklite discovers the secret documentary of photographs taken by Flavia, and places himself at the end as part of the sequence. The series of photographs document the nine months during Kracklite’s stay in Rome, recalling some painful moments of his failure. He stands helplessly at the end of the sequence juxtaposed with a picture of his belly, signifying his obsession and the cause of his downfall.
Boullee’s dome that was first introduced in the form of a cake at the beginning of the film is symbolic of Kracklite’s obsession with the oval, reflecting his obsession with his belly, the pregnancy of his wife, and Boullee himself, who also suffered a stomach illness.
|In the symbol
rich film “The Belly of an Architect” the artifactual histrionic
architecture of Rome plays a central role. Various monuments of the Roman
Empire are displayed as static symmetrical images for some 10 to 20 seconds
as a powerful visual metaphor for Rome’s endurance and scale. It is
a counterpoint to the limited time-scale of the individual. The individual
architect, Kracklite, with his obsessions, suspicions, delusions, and paranoia
faces the truth of his incomplete life and pending death against the backdrop
of the constancy of Rome’s monuments.
In Paris, as in Rome, Kracklite would be the ineffectual foreigner floundering in a strong traditional closed culture.
If the film were to be transplanted to Paris, architectural monuments would have to be selected that maintained the same metaphorical relationship of enduring monument to fragile man. The monuments would have to speak to the apex of French classicism, when Paris was the center of western civilization, the 19th century.
The welcoming dinner scene set in the piazza in front of the Pantheon could be reset with diner in the park in front of the Eiffel Tower – a monument of permanence built in 1889 commemorating the centenary of the French Revolution, a pivotal moment in the 18th century. Kracklite could be shown visiting Napoleons Tomb as a substitute to Augustas’s mausoleum. The Piazza Navone could be replaced by the Champs D’elysee. The Palace of Versailles as the Baroque monument of France could be substituted for the Coliseum and Hadrian’s Villa. The exhibition venue location at the monument to Victor Emmanuel II could be substituted with the Louvre as the architectural monument to French cultural achievements.
The theme of Boullee as a clever transcending image could stay intact in this Parisian setting. Boullee’s fifteen minutes of fame for the belly-like spherical Cenotaph for Isaac Newton is juxtaposed against the belly of the architect. Boullee, who’s Cenotaph was never built, seems a perfect fit to Kracklite’s incomplete life and inability to control events in his life. Kracklite also wonders if Boullee, an outsider, was caught up in the futility of a foreigner finding himself swept under in a culture of tradition that is stronger than the strengths of an individual.
Kracklite, in Paris, could have obsessed on Boullee, French Kings and Baroque landmarks.
could have self-destructed in Paris as well as in Rome.
the theme of Boulee and refiguring and placing the movie The Belly of an
Architect in Belfast, leaves and creates many cultural impacts on the story
line while preserving the original plot. The story would read as such:
The movie would open with the couple making their way on train from southern Ireland to Northern Ireland, The opening dinner party to celebrate the exhibition of Boullee would be in the gardens in front of Belfast castle situated on the slopes of Cave Hill over looking the city and the Lough. The exhibition will be held in the Ulster museum. Stourley would become obsessed with the troubles and with southern Ireland, which is fueled by his stomach pains and desire to become involved. His paranoid lack of interest in his wife leads to her affair with a charming young Irish architect, bringing pregnancy. Stourley further obsession of the troubles brings self portraits and photographs of himself in Republican solder attire, constantly focusing on his stomach. His obsession leads to him loosing the contract to direct the Exhibition at the Ulster museum due to his political connections. Instead of walking through the roman busts Stourley will be driven in an RUC land rover through and around the dangerous areas of Belfast being shown how supporters have met their end, and a warning to leave the country or you might meet the same ends. The ending of the exhibition shows his wife pregnant cutting the ribbon alone. Stourlely lies dead outside the museum after being shot due to his involvement in the troubles.
The scenes of him eating an orange in the roman ruins would be replaced with an apple, walking through the glens of Antrim, and swimming in the Lough, and the first meeting of his wife's adulterer would take place at the neo-Romanesque architecture of St. Anne's Cathedral.
How would this film have to be refigured if it were set in New York (if you are not familiar with New York, pick another urban city other than those already assigned)? What architectural elements would you substitute? How would it potentially impact the plot -- ie. the theme of Boullee?
of an Architect is a beautiful film, full of the sites, sounds and experience
of Rome. To imagine it taking place in New York instead would be to completely
change the film. Unlike many films that could be set anywhere, The Belly
of an Architect is as much about Rome as it is about the plot itself.
Setting wise, the many picturesque shots of picnicking out of doors by the base of a monument or over looking the number of notable buildings would most likely be eliminated. To dine in New York means to experience one of the many wonderful restaurants. It is about the interior, the small scale, the chef and the décor. There are few places where one would want to picnic on the streets of Manhattan. This would mean that the intimate feeling of the film would be loss. Instead of private gatherings in quiet places, they would be meeting in busy restaurants or bars, surrounded by other activities and conversations. The sounds of the film would change from the peace of church bells to traffic, sirens and the constant murmuring of other people. Most notably, the entire pace of the film would be speed up. Instead of leisurely walking, dinning or conversing, the film would consist of quick cab rides, and efficient dinning resulting in much less idol chit chat. The film would take on the speed of New York.
The Belly of and Architect is constantly emphasizing the many architectural elements that make up Rome. The film makes a point to include many significant landmarks in the city. If the film were set in New York they would need to be substituted with New York’s important icons. I would imagine The Brooklyn Bridge would be a important image, as well as the Metropolitan Museum, the plaza at Lincoln Center and Grand Central Station, these all being important civic spaces could incorporate scenes of gatherings or of contemplation. The “architectural influences” could come from buildings such as the Flat Iron building, the brownstones of Brooklyn, or the early skyscrapers. Time Square might be used as a daily unnoticed background and Central Park could substitute for the Roman Forum, the one place of calm and serenity within Manhattan. However these places would all be very crowed with both locals and tourist, unlike the places of solitude presented in the film.
Changing the setting of the film would impact the plot to some degree. Since much of the plot centers around the relationship between the Italians and the Americans, this would be lost. However, New Yorkers can also take on an attitude of superiority to outsiders. The idea of New York as being this strange, exotic place wouldn’t quite fit for an architect from Chicago. Therefore the feeling of isolation and helplessness wouldn’t make sense either. The setting change would mainly impact the underlying themes throughout the film, ideas of dining, nudity, and peaceful meanderings. The constant comparison to members of Roman history would be lost, and difficult to replace. The film would be spead up, and the timelessness would be lost.
the film in Toronto would affect its perception of in a dramatic way. For
example the opening scene we see Stourley Kracklite, his wife, and his other
supporters having a dinner party in front of the Pantheon would be altered
in perception. During this event we see that that space is comfortable for
their dinning party. Now when I think of Toronto and try to imagine eating
in front of one of the city’s significant urban artifacts I cannot
imagine the same feeling of experience. The Pantheon is Rome’s great
dome while Toronto’s is the Sky Dome. When I imagine the public space
surrounding the Sky Dome in Toronto there is not the same sense of locus
as the Pantheon. The event of dinning at such a place would be open to much
speculation from other citizens and would not maintain the same sense of
interiority as in Rome. The dinner party event first introduces Stourley’s
admiration of Boullee; in front of the Sky Dome this would be appropriate
in creating an introduction to Boullee’s obsession with mega structures.
Again if the film were refigured to take place in Toronto there is not a direct substitute for Hadrian’s Villa. Perhaps Fort York could be a substitute here. This change in place would alter the film shifting the experience of the events that take place. In this change there is contrast between the finely articulated marble of the villa and the stocky wood buildings of the fort. The scene that takes place with a lunch gathering within the ruins at Hadrian’s Villa would be altered in feeling and composition upon moving it to Toronto. At Fort York a scene with this type of sensuality is not possible. The scene would need to be filmed having a picnic on the grassy lawn of the Fort. The scene with Stourley’s wife and her secret rendezvous would also be difficult to construct here. Perhaps Stourley could overlook their scene of secret intimacy against a pole under the Gardiner Expressway. This scene is one that truly aggravates Stourley’s stomach problems and hence intensifies his relationship to Boullee.
One of the most characteristic shots in the film is in front of the National museum in Rome. If the plot of this film were shifted to Toronto a similar shot could take place in front of the R.O.M. Here the difference between the two museums is rather evident. In Rome is symmetry and completion while with the R.O.M, newly being renovated by Daniel Liebskind, is fragmentary and incomplete. In his relationship to the Museum perhaps the fragmentary nature of the R.O.M. could be easier for Stourley to relate to since his life beginning with his wife’s betrayal has become fragment. The refiguring would signal the fragmentary nature of Stourley’s life and his relationship to Boullee thus relating to the original plot.
A general question for the Italian students. What is your impression of
the conflict in the film as it relates to the representation of the Italians
and their relationship with the Americans?
While in most of movies we can say actors are instructed by director’s hand, here all the characters are strongly manipulated by director’s hand and re-presented through his eye.
Under this point of view Greenway works with stereotypes in a strange manner: on one side we see excess of Italian cliché, mostly used to underline certain moments of the movie: Kracklite paying the little Italian to post his card to Boullee, the fake stroke as promotional event, the missing founds for the exhibition due to Italian tricks; in other moments American cliché are used in a reverse way, for example when Kracklite gets drunk at Pantheon.
But in the
same scenes, if one character is behaving as a cliché, the actor
in front of him is not.
Kracklite Italian sponsor, has an incredible English style, he never speaks
that’s not the point. The point is that money is acting, as well
as corruption (political, moral, etc.) in terms of metalanguage every
time deep feelings cannot go through.
back to 443/646 fall 2004