The art of inspiring 6 great filmmakers

All is quiet on the Western front

Inspired by the Steve McQueen movie Embarrassing

For the adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s World War I novel, director Edward Berger was inspired by Steve McQueen2011 drama Embarrassing. “This may seem like an unexpected choice, but of all the McQueen movies, I admire precision,” Berger said. Set 100 years apart and under dramatically different circumstances, Berger’s war epic and McQueen’s sex addiction drama focus heavily on their protagonists above all else. . Berger’s Embarrassing. “In every scene, I feel the contribution of each part as they help the actors express the emotions their characters are really trying to hide.” —Rebecca Ford


Inspired by the documentary series of Cecil Beaton

Cecil BeatonFrom Bettmann/Getty Image.

by Oliver Hermanus Liferemake of the classic Akira Kurosawa Ikiru, main character Bill Nighy as a dying official, which opens with realistic footage of 1950s London. So the costume designer Sandy Powell was intrigued by documentary photography of the period to make the transition to the world of film as seamless as possible. In addition to a fashion photo of Cecil Beaton, who also captured the Blitz wreckage, she asked her family members to search their own archives. “Photographs of real working-class and lower-middle-class people are the most useful tools,” she explains. “Many background accessories based on family photos.” It was Beaton who inspired the look of tom burkecharacter of Sutherland, a rougher character that Nighy’s Williams meets by the sea. For cinematic references, she turns to photographs taken at Ealing Studios in London during that period, like Lavender Hill Crowd, Passport to Pimlicoand killers. But she was particularly interested in reality, unlike other 1950s-era works she had done, like Far from heaven. “This movie focuses a lot on recreating something realistically,” she said. —Esther Zuckerman

Armageddon time

Before they start any project, the director James Gray and cinematographer Darius Khondji go to the museum. Working together on the third film in Gray’s hometown of New York, they visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Gray recalled Vermeer painting A Sleeping Maid—depicting a woman dozing off at a table, her face turned away from the main light of the room—is “what to look for” in their movie look. But that’s the Rembrandt painting Dinner at Emmaus what the cinematographer calls the “friendly ghost” that inspires throughout the film. As he and Gray searched for locations in New York to shoot the 1980s family film, inspired by Gray’s own childhood, “this Rembrandt painting came back to me,” Khondji said. . “The ghostly feel of the character is silhouetted by the back light, these ocher tones, this feeling is back.” There is no direct representation of the painting in the film, but its essence—the shadows, “the elusiveness of spirits,” as Gray puts it—recurs throughout the director’s quietly haunting film. . —KR


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