Architecture in Italian Movies


During our last First Wednesday @ Ciao Chicago we talked about Architecture in Italian movies. 

Joan Craig of Lichten Craig Architecture + Interiors and Alireza Khatami, Filmmaker and assistant professor at De Paul University, discussed different Italian movies, such us I AM LOVE (Io sono l'amore), by Luca Guadagnino. 

“Shortly after seeing this film,” Joan Craig says, “I was in Milan for the Salone del Mobile, the International furniture fair. While there, I made a pilgrimage to this house, which I’m still dreaming about. There was an article on the movie in Times that described the role of his house in the movie. It was a main character, a “leading mansion.” See full article of the NYC:

….and beside Guadagnino, Here the complete list of movies by Joan Craig


Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988


“Cinema Paradiso is wonderful story about a filmmaker who recalls his childhood in a small Sicilian village and how he fell in love with movies and storytelling. There is a scene in which the piazza, the center of Italian life, literally becomes the theater, the place where the story unfolds... spectator meets spectacle. “



Red Desert, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964


“This is a movie where the setting is more important than subject, character or storyline. The industrial landscape, both compelling and terrifying, creates a world of alienaFon and waste. This industrial infrastructure could be almost anywhere -- a no man’s land found all over the globe. The loose storyline is about a woman, who has some mental illness, married to an industrialist whose factories figure as part of the toxic landscape in the film and she begins to fall in love with his business partner, who is his antithesis.”  



The conformist, Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970


“Another classic film... this is a movie where the architecture and the set reinforce a movement in history where everything is off kilter. Fascism has gripped Italy – and the scenes in the movie illustrate this – streets shot on a slant, gardens smothered in leaves, a government office that looks like an empty stadium, another that looks like a war memorial. Scenes of people dwarfed by architecture – and the power of the Fascist regime.” 



Bicycle Thieves, Vittorio De Sica, 1949


“Set right after the end of WWII, it depicts an Italy of poverty and desperation. Unemployment is soaring and the welfare checks can barely sustain life. This neo- realist film focuses on the life and misfortunes of a common worker. Photographed in grainy black and white, the entire film– interiors and exteriors alike– was shot on locaFon. Most of the film takes place against the background of overcrowded city streets, or tenement housing for the poor. There are no shots of the glories of Rome– again, the city and the settings is objectifying an idea: that of poverty and resultant desperation.” 



Roman Holiday, William Wyler, 1953


“These two movies are an extreme example of the endless contexts in which architecture plays a crucial role in movies– from building a mood to making a point to using spaces to serve their artistic needs. 

Switching gears... this is a movie made five years or so later, a Hollywood confection that shows a completely different Rome. This is a thoroughly American view of the city. Fabulous travelogue and love story– everything from Trevi Fountain to Palazzo Barberini to the Colosseum to the Vatican.This features all of the tourist sites so carefully avoided by de Sica. 

First American film to be shot in its entirety in Italy, early fifties, Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, she won an Academy Award for it.
Story of a young princess who escapes her royal handlers and meets a journalist, who pretends he doesn’t know who she is and offers to show her the city. 

Rome identifies here as freedom– at its core, this is a coming of age story where the city is a symbol of possibility, independence, and freedom.” 



La Sapienza, Eugene Green, 2014


“I’m partial to this subject, having spent almost a week in Rome stopping by Sant Ivo daily, trying to get in, finally to succeed on our last day there. It was memorable. This is a movie about an unhappy couple– the husband and architect– who embark on a road trip to see Borromini’s works throughout Switzerland and Italy. The film is an extraordinary homage to Borromini, featuring unbelievable views of his work. The dialogue, as I recall, is very flat and one dimensional– cerebral but unconvincing, but the cinematography of the architecture is really moving. La Sapienza means knowledge or wisdom, and throughout the movie, the architect says “Much of what I know is useless.” In the course of the movie, he finds purpose. It’s ultimately a movie about reconciliation and resolve.” 



The belly of an architect, Peter Greenaway, 1987


“Brian Denehy plays an architect who is commissioned to do an exhibition of Bouleee’s work in Rome. He’s obsessed with his project. As his obsession deepens. His marriage, his health, his life falls apart. The story is told against post card views of Rome--- I haven’t seen it for years, but as I recall from the eighties it’s campy as best... it’s a spectacle.” 



The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino, 2013


In the Great Beauty, the city itself with all of its culture and beauty is both celebrated and used as a metaphor for the decadence and decline of the Berlusconi years. It’s like an opera to Rome– with lots of passion, noise, color, extravagance and ultimately melancholy. 



Short film on Carlo Mollino, Felipe Sanguinetti, 2017


“This is a short film that I came across in Vogue. The subject is the brilliant and eccentric architect and furniture designer from Turin named Carlo Mollino. One of the projects featured in the film is an apartment he worked on for eight years or so, keeping it’s existence from all. It was a house, a shrine in fact, to all that he loved. It was designed to be like a Pharaoh's tomb– filled with the many objects that defined him, everything from hundreds of eroFc polaroid’s he took over the years to butterflies and clamshells, Saarinen furniture and Japanese lanterns. It’s a portrait of a highly curated, very personal world.” 

Maurizio Muzzetta