Best Production Design 1915
Set design can be overlooked as an important element in constructing an illusion, but when it’s done badly, you notice immediately. Filmmakers coming from a theatrical tradition suddenly had the power to create much more convincing stages for their players to act on – but also suffered from the fact that the conventional stage doesn’t look as good on screen as in person. Audiences became more demanding, and the cost and skill involved in making a movie set went up correspondingly.
In 1915, a high bar was already place for production designers, and the movies nominated for best production design reflect this. “Young Romance,” in addition to taking advantage of the natural scenery of a Long Island resort, used set design to show the parallels and contrasts in the two leads’ paths and highlight their meeting. Evgeni Bauer, himself a former set designer, contributed two movies to our list. In “Daydreams,” we get a sense of an urban Russian bourgeoisie from long ago, both from outdoor and indoor shots, while “Children of the Age” shows a more decadent, or glamorous, variation on the theme by emphasizing garden parties and romantic rendezvous. In “The Cheat,” we see a similar world in an American context, often by night and with long shadows. Finally, “Alias Jimmy Valentine” shows us fascinating labyrinthine bank vaults and decaying urban tenements.
The nominees for Best Production Design for 1915 are…
And the winner is…”Children of the Age!”
Bauer’s unique eye for mise-en-scène gives us a fascinating world of contrasts: from the simple home of the working man to the backlit greenhouse where his wife and her future lover meet. While the others were all worth celebrating, this was finally my favorite.