Films inherently offer an alternate version of reality to us, holding within its reel the could've-been's and the should've been's. Sometimes this reality is entirely imagined, a pure work of fiction and other times stands on the shoulders of our existing reality to offer a slightly altered version of what could exist. In the case of our built environment, films can offer a suspension of reality and logic, which are the biggest tethers to architects when we design for the 'real' world. What emerges from the 'reel' then, is imagined possibilities - speculative realism, which has such a magical quality to it simply in the imagining of it, even if implausible.
Creatives who straddle with the constraints of reality often have to walk the line between the plausible and the implausible, and venturing into the seemingly implausible brings about a wonderful sense of excitement to our 'real' world.
What's interesting in films is how these speculative realities are based and shot in 'real' locations, which need to be curated to the extent of the fantastical that may be part of the plot.
Here's a round-up of my top 5 (so far) where the alternate worlds blew my mind :
5. Hogwarts - Harry Potter Series
Imagine walking through the same space everyday but using different routes each time. While the architecture heavily borrows from the Gothic architecture that Britain is familiar with, making them move adds magic to the space (yes, pun intended). The moving staircases are one of the many brilliant ways to imagine space, including the roof of the Great Hall at Hogwarts.
4. The Chocolate Factory - Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl had mastered the art of creating alternate worlds through his books. Some of the most imaginative stories include giants, children with magical powers and yet, it is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that really re-imagines a world on its own. The film versions with Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp both interpret the story for their time and create the worlds equally evocatively.
3. Dream worlds - Inception
A Christopher Nolan movie, where he tackles the idea of time affected worlds. It's amazing how the inertia of one world can affect the secondary and tertiary worlds. The beauty of this movie also lies in how the characters create worlds using fragments of the familiar, creating as they traverse their new worlds.
2. Wakanda - Black Panther
A recent gem in the realm of film worlds, Wakanda comes as a confluence of ethnicity, technology and nature. Portrayed as a futuristic city, it comes across as a Utopian example where things are going right for this country that stays within its bubble. The bubble is a tech invention as opposed to superpowers, landing much closer to the plausible side of the spectrum.
1. Pandora - Avatar
James Cameron created a world that never gets old for me. From the gravity defying Hallelujah mountains that suspend themselves mid-air, to the bioluminiscent nature of the organisms, there has been so much attention to detail in the creation of Pandora. The beauty of this world lies in how so much of the 'invented' are organisms - the landscape, animals, birds, and the Navi- and how actively these all form the physical environment. Plus, the colour scheme - of cool colours, similar tones of blues, teal, purples and pinks, tie together all the creatures of Pandora seamlessly.
Films, and in turn, stories, become a place where fiction comes alive with possibilities that can redefine the world as we know it. Speculative realism allows us to push our ideas of the world, while simultaneously acting as places to get lost within.