PlayTime (1967)

For Norberg-Schulz, an existential space is a three-dimensional system of outlines that gives us a sense of being in a surrounding, which is made up of our memory, perception, and experience. It is an active interaction between our perceptions of all senses and in the physical space we inhabit. In his book Cine-scapes: Cinematic Spaces in Architecture and Cities, Koeck argues that this idea could be applied to film when viewing of movies affect our experience with the city landscape and vice versa. One example of this would be PlayTime (1967), which echos our memory of absurdity in modern architecture. These elements in the film include rectilinear buildings, glazings, columns, picture frames, and hospital-like partitions in the airport. The sound-making chair and metal trashcan, ubiquitous from office lobby, furniture fair to a residential apartment, make fun of how we choose the same furniture for everywhere. The satire builds on a familiar architecture and unpredictable events here and there as Hulot absorbs the various atmospheres and incidents. The universal use of glazing is reflective of our city.

The glazing in PlayTime serves as a layered meaning of doubleness, reflective of some elements and transparent to others. They represent two psychological maps of Monsieur Hulot and of the tourist ladies. The revolving doors reflect Paris landmarks that amaze the women tourists but where they have never been like Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumph. Similarly, the street corner flower stand adds another dose of realness to the hoax. Tati utilizes the transparent quality of glass to show the double apartments with a mirrored identical layout. We view the reflective actions on opposite sides through glazed facade from the street. In another instance, we could see the dancing movement of the travel agent from outside the building which diverts attention from Hulot who is already confused. Tati manipulated different qualities of glass to enhances the humorous narrative and satires how modern architecture could be controlling and distracting at the same time.

Tativille is a grand composition of geometry and rhythms. The grid-like office made of repetitive lines and squares partitions dominate the visuals over the shallowness of drawers that would be unreasonable to their functions. The camera captures the office room from above as Monsieur Hulot look for his host, revealing and making fun of the perfect arrangement and actions in a modern workspace. The endless array of office cubicles exemplifies how furniture could become a focal point of the film. 

The sound that accompanies with several funny moments in the film is an audio language of poetic imagery. It guides our attention in the fragmented storylines and sonically separate foreground foci from background actions. In the restaurant scene, the sound of floor tile coming off and sticking onto the waiter’s shoes spotlights what would otherwise require more time to notice if there is no sound. The camera does not zoom in on any specific move but overviews a perspective full of actions. In the first viewing, the audience is only aware of what is highlighted with sounds. In a more implicit example, the sound of the dancing lady tapping the back of her partner direct our view to her, and when she turns around, we see the crown logo of the chair imprinted on her back. This use of sound as visual imagery promote our eye movement on the screen and maximize the area our eyes focus on, which are tracking curves similar to when we look at a pleasant artwork or an attractive person. 
Figure 1. Sound guides viewer’s attention in PlayTime. The tap sound locates where we see the crown imprint on the woman’s back.
The Royal Garden scene in PlayTime, lasting for almost 50 minutes, spatializes the breaking of controlled geometry through a mapped sequence of events. Tati engineered an overwhelming and entertaining amount of joyful gags using the restaurant interiors as a machine designed for every single move of this comic mess.

The overall movement of the film is changing from linear to circular as we enter from the exterior of Tativille to the chaotic interior. In an interview, Tati revealed, “A lot of people think that the camera doesn’t move at all; actually it does move, but always to show what your eye would naturally follow, so you don’t notice it.” The camera flows in a series of turns, starting from neon light at the entrance, our view follows a curve from one point to another accompanied view audio clues. For example, when the restaurant manager steps on the floor tile that sticks on his shoes, the camera does not move but turn with where he is heading for two seconds.  Our eyes naturally see our surroundings in patterns of curves, so this way of framing can humanize the viewing, make the settings seem more natural, and draw us to immerse in the dining hall. In another example, one action to cross passes another, and the camera turns to follow one character to another. When the waiter was looking for the architect, we follow him, but then the screen focuses on to a guest selecting alcohol at the bar and ends with another doorman giving a book and some changes to the guest.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

In Darjeeling Limited, the layout of the train compliments the essence of the narrative and allows us to immerse in the unfolding emotions of the story. The division in their train cabin is an example. It looks symmetrical at first sight. On one side is a mirror above the sink and on the other is a small opening window. This setup could be seen as a use of tactile poetic imagery. It symbolizes the brother’s communication after the loss of their dad and their missing mother. At times their conversations ‘touch’ each other or infuriate into a fight. At other times what they try to project onto each other only ’reflects’ on themselves.
Figure 2. Set layout complements essence of narrative in The Darjeeling Limited. The opening and mirror symbolize the bother’s communication. 
In the last scene, where each character was given a fragment of length on the train, is another example where to set layout complements the essence of the film. The camera moves from one end to the other, capturing them from a single point perspective. Each room is a specific portrait of the character and almost independent of the train setting except the moving window view of India. The composition of light, colors, elements are representative of a life moment. This cinematographic presentation goes with the meaning of the story everyone is embracing his life alone together. In this way, the train becomes a symbol of a journey that links all of the characters together and provokes a collective emotion. 
The style of the film is directly taken from the live locations in India and with a documentary-like perception to the details. We could see these in elements and lighting used on the train from furniture, fixture, curtains, paintings, patterns to smaller items like dining wares. The interior of the train also reflects impromptu essence of the journey. The spontaneous moments include the train gets lost, but the brothers explore the mountain nearby. Their mother is not who they expect, but they continue their trip. Francis initially is upset about his brother not being able to follow the ritual of blowing peacock feather, but later they each have their own choreography. Mark Friedberg told us that the ornamentation in the train was hand drawn by local artists and that he let go controlling for an exact result. We could see the difference between where the patterns are on his drawing and the actual train set. He mentioned that they are set props that could only be seen by the actors (not the audience) that are still well designed in the film to guide the acting. Perhaps the process of making film interior could similarly enhance the authenticity and spontaneity theme of the film.
Figure 3. Set visualization is taken from live locations in the Darjeeling Limited. Scale and movement give an immersive sense of the Indian town. Here the market place is wide open and Anderson was able to bring us into a more intimate space by zooming into individual actions.
Similar to Norberg-Schulz’s idea of an existential space, Pallasmaa said “We live in worlds in which the material and the mental, the experienced, remembered, and imagined completely fuse into each other. Accessaries are as equally important as the interior layout and camera angle to creating the emotion of the film. In The Darjeeling Limited, each character has an item that represents their personality. The oldest of brothers, Francis, is constantly holding the schedule of the day card. It represents his frustration to follow a plan and his belief that by sharing an itinerary and embarking on a trip together, he would be able to reconnect with his brothers. He repeatedly says “Let’s make an agreement.” “Let’s make another agreement.”  “Can we agree to that?” For Jack, his iPod, seen in the train cabin and where they set up camp fire, show his tendency to see his life as a fiction. The perfume from his ex-girlfriend layers a meaning that grief is like a scent as it only fades away slowly. If you tries to break it, the fragrance releases strongly and lingers in the room. Peter on the other side wears a prescription glasses that prevent him from seeing clearly. The glasses set a boundary between himself and people around him. His wife does not know about his trip and he avoids conversation about becoming a father.