I like to travel routes unknown, not for snobbery or thirst for distinguish myself, but simply because i like to follow my thought and my instict in the wake of curiosity.

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John Macfarlane artist and theatre designer: from Maria Stuarda to Cinderella, an incredible visual artist.

John Macfarlane artist and theatre designer: from Maria Stuarda to Cinderella, an incredible visual artist.

I discovered the wonderful work of John Macfarlane while I was studying directors who created the opera Maria Stuarda in the opera house. So I was able to admire the magnificent work as both set and costume designer of this artist. For me, Maria Stuarda and Cinderella are simply the best projects! Only the concepts are small masterpieces.

John Macfarlane was born in Scotland and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. He received an Arts Council of Great Britain Trainee Designer award and spent some time as Resident Designer at the Young Vic Theatre in London.

For the first fifteen years of his career he worked mainly in dance with many of the major international companies. He collaborated with Jiri Kylian and the Netherlands Dance Theatre (Songs of a Wayfarer, Les Noces, Dreamtime, L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Piccolo Mondo, The Soldier’s Tale, Forgotten Land and Tanzschul); and Glen Tetley, The Fire Bird (Danish Royal Ballet), Weigenlied (Vienna State Opera), La Ronde and Tagore (Canadian Royal Ballet) and Dialogues (Dance Theatre of Harlem). He has also designed for the classical ballet repertoire: Swan Lake in Munich, Giselle (Royal Ballet) and Nutcracker (Birmingham Royal Ballet) both with Sir Peter Wright, and Le Baiser de la fée (Birmingham). Nutcracker has been remounted recently by the Australian National Ballet.

Latterly John Macfarlane has focussed on opera where he designs both sets and costumes. He works regularly with the German producer, Willy Decker, and with Francesca Zambella, David McVicar and Richard Jones.

With Willy Decker John designed A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Cologne Opera); Julius Caesar (Scottish Opera); Peter Grimes (Brussels); La Clemenza di Tito (Paris Opera); Othello (Brussels); Falstaff (Florence); Boris Gudunov (Amsterdam); Bluebeard/Ewartung (Royal Opera House); and Idomeneo (Vienna Opera).With Francesca Zambello he designed Benvenuto Cellini (Grand Theatre, Geneva), Barber of Seville (Santa Fe) and War and Peace (Paris).

John worked with David McVicar on Agrippina (Brussels); Magic Flute (ROH) and Don Giovanni (Brussels). They will do The Rake’s Progress together in Copenhagen in 2009. Hansel and Gretel, his first production with Richard Jones for Welsh National Opera won an Olivier Award and is being re-mounted by the Met in New York at Christmas 2007. Their second production, The Queen of Spades won the Royal Philharmonic Award. They worked together on Euryanthe for Glyndebourne Festival Opera; the second part of The Trojans for English National Opera; Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk and a double bill of L’Espagnol and Gianni Schichhi for the Royal Opera House.

John’s future commitments include Cinderella for Birmingham Royal Ballet, Elektrafor Chicago and Maria Stuarda for the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

In addition to his opera and dance work, John Macfarlane exhibits regularly as a painter and print maker in the U.K and Europe.

Below the gallery I recommend you an interview with him.




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MASTER OF SET DESIGN: KEN ADAM “BERLINER” CINEMA SUPERSTAR! Ken and his strange relationship with Stanley Kubrick! Berlinare 2015 is coming , Don’t Miss This Great Opportunity to discover an unbelievable artist.

MASTER OF SET DESIGN: KEN ADAM “BERLINER” CINEMA SUPERSTAR! Ken and his strange relationship with Stanley Kubrick

Berlinare 2015 is coming , Don’t Miss This Great Opportunity to discover an unbelievable artist.


11 December 2014 – 17 May 2015:
Bigger Than Life. Ken Adam’s Film Design

Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen
Potsdamer Straße 2
10785 Berlin

ken adam

Thunderball (1965), James Bond

Set design is one of the most complicated elements in film. Basically, it’s meant to serve the story and not call attention to itself, while still adding to the mood of the film.
Berlinale is coming and Don’t Miss This Great Opportunity to discover a Berliner Cinema Superstar: Sir Kenneth Adam the most influential film production designer of the last half of the twentieth century.

6Born to a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin in 1921 ( his birth name was Klaus Adam), Adam had a privileged childhood but fled to London 1934 when the Nazis cracked down on Jewish businesses, including his father’s firm. After studying architecture, he served as a fighter pilot for the British during World War II, then wangled a job as a junior draftsman on the otherwise forgettable 1947 film, “This Was A Woman.” Adam worked his way up the ranks to become a production designer, a role that didn’t exist until 1938 when William Cameron Menzies was given the title on “Gone with the Wind.” It was still so peripheral that Adam’s name was misspelled in the credits of “Around the World in Eighty Days” (1956), the first film where he felt he made a creative impact.

He most famous for ‘Dr Strangelove’ and the James Bond films of the 60’s & 70’s. He is also one of only two German nationals who flew for the RAF in World War II.


Thunderball Set (1965)

In London, Adam flew for the RAF – the first German fighter pilot to do so – and he claims that this experience, fraught with action and danger, played a huge role in his design work, particularly the Bond films. Although he still lives in London, Adam has never forgotten his Berlin roots.

There is no doubt that Adam was influenced by the Bauhaus and German Expressionism and the architects who he admired most are Mies Van Der Rohe, Mendelsohn, Gropius and Le Corbusier, and also, in some way, Frank Lloyd Wright .

You only Live Twice (GB, US 1967, Lewis Gilbert)

You only Live Twice (GB, US 1967, Lewis Gilbert) Villains get the best apartments: Blofeld’s Volcano Lair for “You Only Live Twice”. © Ken Adam Archive/Deutsche Kinemathek)

The mastermind behind seven of the first eleven Bond films, including Dr. No, Adam has been lauded as one of the world’s greatest production designers. First recognized during the filming of Around the World in Eighty Days, he has managed to cultivate a rapt following in one of the cinema’s most underappreciated professions, and with it a reputation for grandly expressionistic sets, such as the war room in Dr. Strangelove and Blofeld’s volcanic headquarters in You Only Live Twice.

By the early 70s, Ken’s imagination had made him Hollywood’s most celebrated production designer, and in 1975 he got another call from Mr Kubrick who was preparing to come out of hiding after the fallout from Clockwork Orange. He wanted re-tell Barry Lyndon, Thackeray’s candle lit ode to the regency period. Ken reluctantly agreed. He had happily passed on the opportunity to work on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

barry lindon

Barry Lindon set – Stanley Kubrick

Adam said: “Stanley had got very nasty menacing letters from people threatening his life, so when we were preparing for Barry he wouldn’t move out of his house for 5 or 6 months. I said ‘how can you make a film on location when you don’t go out?’ So he employed an army of young photographers to take pictures of stately homes. But you couldn’t say anything about his paranoia to anyone otherwise he would be on the phone the next day. He controlled everything you said in the press and on set.”

Physically exhausted, Ken had a nervous breakdown, and Kubrick fired everyone on set for six weeks to re-think the film’s strategy.


Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick

“It wasn’t normal pressure, I can cope with normal pressure,” he says, with a gutsy laugh. “I had to go into a clinic. Stanley was more worried than I was, but I was beyond worrying really. He rang everyday but wasn’t able to talk to me because my psychiatrist wanted to cut this umbilical chord between us. Which he never managed to do actually. When I finally came back to this house, he rang up and asked me if I wanted to direct a scene over in Germany. The moment I heard that I was back in the clinic. Crazy.”

ken adam

The Spy Who Loved Me (GB, US 1977, Lewis Gilbert)

“Kubrick had seen Dr. No and loved it,” Ken says, tugging back a lungful of cigar smoke. “He asked if I would be interested in doing a picture for him. I went to see him and he had a lot of charm and curiosity, but I felt he was also very naïve. Little did I know that there was this gigantic computer like brain functioning all the time!”

He sketched out an idea for the film’s centrepiece – a split-level war room. Kubrick liked it at first but scrapped it after wondering what he would do with the second level. Ken then drew an imposing triangular design, with the director standing behind him commenting on every stroke.

ken adam

The Madness of King George (GB, US 1994, Nicholas Hytner)

“We were too close. It was like a marriage. He was unbelievably possessive and very difficult to work with because he knew every other part of filmmaking, but not design. He was suspicious and I had to intellectually justify every line I drew. That can be so destroying to deal with day after day.”

In 1966, he returned to the city to work on the film Funeral in Berlin and 2001 for collaborating on Taking Sides by Istvan Szabo ; and in 2012, he donated his entire life’s work of over 5000 objects (including nearly 4000 sketches of his film sets) to the Deutsche Kinemathek. This donation forms the basis of the new exhibition.

He also worked on film as Addams family and The Madness of King George.

Don’t Miss This Great Opportunity to discover a great artist.

Confidential source Kubrick-Adam : “TIM NOAKES 2008 “


ken adam

Ken Adam, photo: Andreas-Michael Velten, 2014

Design study for the Liparus Super-Tanker in “The Spy Who Loved Me”. (GB/F 1977, directed by Lewis Gilbert; image © Ken Adam Archive/Deutsche Kinemathek)

ken adam

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (GB, US 1968, Ken Hughes) image © Ken Adam Archive/Deutsche Kinemathek)


Funeral in Berlin (1966), Still from the movie Funeral in Berlin Martin-Gropius-Bau and the old Prussian Landtag (Abgeordnetenhaus today).The wall run between them.


Funeral in Berlin (1966)

ken adam

Around the world in 80 days set (1956)

ken adam

The Willard Whyte House for “Diamonds Are Forever”. (GB/USA 1971; image © Ken Adam Archive/Deutsche Kinemathek)

ken adam

Funeral in Berlin (1966), aus vaterland-Here in the British movie ‘Funeral in Berlin’ (1966) the Haus Vaterland (on the right) is on East-Berlin territory. In 1971 it came to the West in exchange.

Picture 21

Addams Family (1973)

ken adam

The Zero Gravity Space for “Moonraker” a. (GB/F 1979; image © Ken Adam Archive/Deutsche Kinemathek)

Goldfinger (GB, US 1964, Guy Hamilton)

Goldfinger sketch (GB, US 1964, Guy Hamilton)

ken adam

Ken Adam


Taking Sides, István Szabó, (2001), Berlin set


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I really love the architecture of fascist period and It was the subject of my dissertation at the University.


The Conformist

It’s not a coincidence that some of my favorite films have the fascist architecture as Set Design, created by great production designers as Dante Ferretti and Ferdinando Scarfiotti.

The Movies are: The Conformist by Bernardo Bertolucci, (1970) based on Alberto Moravia’s novel “Il conformista”, written in 1947  and Titus by Julie Taymor, (1999), based on the worldwide famous William  Shakespeare’s  tragedy  “Titus Andronicus”.

Many contemporary Production Designers (Alex Mc Dowell) consider The Conformist film praised as a visual masterpiece. Bertolucci’s movie concerns Marcello Clerici (Trintignant), an Italian who is about to get married to a middle-class woman Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli). Marcello’s obsession with conforming to the norms of society extends to joining a secret government organisation. He volunteers to seek out the anti-fascist Professor Quadri (Tarascio) and is eventually told to assassinate him. But things become complicated when Marcello and his wife meet the Professor’s wife, Anna (Dominique Sanda).


The Conformist – Palace of the Congresses by Adalberto Libera

The Film-maker chose some locations of the EUR District in Rome, created in the late 1930s for the Esposizione Universale di Roma by Benito Mussolini.

For example in the scene where the young Marcello is going to visit his father in the asylum, accompanied by his mother is incredible. The set represented here is surreal, with the insane people dressed like ancient Roman consolers in an open air space.

In this case Bertolucci here has reinvented the Palace of the Congresses made by Adalberto Libera as a place for insane people, maybe with the allegoric meaning that fascist architecture  was insane as well, representing the power of the regime.

Adalberto Libera also original designer for Casa Malaparte on the Island of Capri, which was featured prominently in -Jean-Luc Godard movie, Le Mèpris, (The Contempt) 1963, based on Alberto Moravia’s novel “Il disprezzo”, written in 1954.

Bertolucci chose Rationalist architecture, Outlines, clean shapes for creating similarities between the building and the soul of protagonist, Marcello Clerici.

The political philosopher Takis Fotopoulos  about the movie: “The Conformist is a beautiful portrait of this psychological need to conform and be normal at the social level, in general, and the political level, in particular.”


The Conformist

Another Fascist location is Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro where Bertolucci set the office of the Fascist secret police.

Recently, this building has been shown in Julie Taymor’s Titus (1999). Titus  Andronicus”, the first of the entire Shakespearean’s masterpieces located in the ancient Roman Empire. It is a cruel and very violent tragedy, full of crime scenes and blood.

The Palace was transformed by Dante Ferretti into the palace of Emperor Saturnino (Alain Cummings) and of his wife Tamora, queen of the Goths, interpreted by Jessica Lange. The director Julie Taymor chose this important public space probably to mean the strength of the power of any totalitarian regime and It’s really visually remarkable.


Titus by Julie Taymor

It’s also important on this movie the costume designer : Milena Canonero (pluri Oscar award winner with Stanley Kubrick).

But I want to remember you others important movies set in the EUR District:

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Eclipse (1962) by Michelangelo Antonioni,

– Eclipse (1962) by Michelangelo Antonioni,

Equilibrium (2001) , by Kurt Wimmer with Christian Bale. How you can see the same place of The Conformist (asylum)  used for some set desing on this movie.

The Belly of an Architect (1987) by Peter Greenaway.

Architecture and cinema can create to the spectator a place in wich emotions and feelings can be shared in the same ‘invented’ spaces.

Then., Great films you must not miss!


Equilibrium by Kurt Wimmer