Production designer Francois Seguin, costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux and cinematographer Yves Belanger take us behind the scenes of the Oscar contending Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan and directed by John Crowley.
But it’s really two movies in one, traversing Ireland and New York in 1951, as Ronan’s Eilis blossoms into a beautiful, independent woman.
We stay with Eilis’ POV throughout: tightly-wound during initial scenes in Ireland, then opening up in New York for a new beginning, where she works in an upscale department store, studies to be an accountant and falls in love with Emory Cohen’s Tony.
“John knew that world in Ireland—it was his parents’ generation—and it was a great education for me,” recalled production designer Seguin. “It was very organic. We found houses in Ireland and Montreal [the interior design was actually from the mid-'20s because people didn't redecorate until the '60s], but the one we invested more in the changing structure was for the department store. And it was technically complicated because we had four seasons over two years, and we all shot that in three days. We put all the dressing on carts and moved it around, changing the set.”
Eilis’ wardrobe, of course, provided a striking contrast and the color palette grew organically out of that. “Postwar Ireland was all about limitations and practicality, with knits that aren’t flashy and flat shoes vs. young American women swooning over movie stars,” suggested costume designer Dicks-Mireaux. “I honed in on a very young Grace Kelly. I found pieces in Montreal, including a yellow dress and a burnt orange/apricot suit. I had no idea if they would suit her, but then Saoirse tried them on and it was a perfect fit.”
Cinematographer Yves Belanger (Wild, Dallas Buyers Club) devised three looks with the Alexa and an assortment of lenses: Ireland had muted greens, gray tones and high contrast with the aid of older Zeiss lenses; New York was more magical with modern lights, diffusion and Master Primes. Then, when Eilis briefly returns to Ireland, there’s a decided overlap. “I kept the diffusion because she doesn’t see Ireland the same way,” Belanger said.
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