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Off Topic: Is there a more cinematic space than the elevator?


I watched Die Hard this Christmas - as ever, on Christmas Eve, wearing my Nakatomi Plaza T-shirt. It's a fantastic movie and, in this house at least, it's a Christmas movie - the best Christmas movie. It's also one of the most interesting architectural movies ever made - I am sure I have bored people with this before, but in Die Hard architecture is destiny. As the film unfolds you learn your way around the upper floors of Nakatomi Plaza. By the end of the film you know where everything is located - the final act kind of depends upon it. (That bit with the fire hose now reminds me of Dark Souls - you sort of know which room he's going to end up in.) When I went to a talk by BLDGBLOG's Geoff Manaugh a few years back - I am sure I have bored people with this before - so many of the questions in the post-talk Q&A were about Die Hard. Manaugh was in town to discuss his brilliant book A Burglar's Guide to the City - a book that truly contains multitudes. Please buy it.

Anyway, every time I watch Die Hard I end up thinking about elevators and how much I love them. More specifically I end up thinking about cinematic elevators. It's made me wonder: is there a more cinematic object than an elevator? Why do they go together so well?

There are any number of reasons, I think, but a few of them are both obvious and interesting. The first is that elevators are such a great cinematic object because they are, on the surface of it, so utterly resistant to cinema. Where do you put the camera? There's no room! So you have to be creative - stick it up high or down below. Or maybe you mess around with the walls - maybe you shoot through a wall but leave the button pad visible. Maybe you rotate around the elevator and we all revel in the magic of this impossible shot? (Shoot face-on, incidentally, and you get a cool moment of theatre in your film - where is the line and is it being broken? You get to study faces, actors when they're listening as well as speaking. It's all strangely illicit.)

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