Everyday Stories

Issue 00/14

Our encounter with the ideal city resembles an encounter with the perfect stage set in an audiovisual production: all we have to do is to find the light that makes it real.

All good films always begin with a good story. A few characters experience conflict, a moment in their lives that deserves to be described. Just an instant in our daily routine existences, a decision that traces a line that separates the before and after: a fortuitous encounter, a love story, a battle …

Georges Méliès, con dibujo preparatorio en una de las manos y pintando un decorado en el suelo de su estudio en Montreuil, 1901

Georges Méliès, with a preparatory drawing in his hand, painting a stage set on the floor of his studio in Montreuil, France, 1901

For me, to imagine the ideal city is like the challenge faced by a filmmaker in search of the right location. It’s like wanting to create a detailed mental construction of the right place where actors can bring a true story to life. Set designs, wardrobes and make-up are the raw material, but the ingredient that will bring the final image to life is light, either natural or artificial, playfully and millimetrically measured for each camera position. All filmmakers are aware of the importance of having good directors of photography on their teams, for the ability of a film to seduce viewers often depends on its photography.

Finding the right setting and knowing how to light it is a key part of audiovisual production: scouring the world, getting to know its nooks and crannies, taking advantage of its nuances, that are ever-changing, according to the position of the camera and the lights, will make spectators believe that the characters are real and actually live in those spaces. Being an architect or a town planner for a day, and building places that under a studied light appear as scenes of an invented life, is the magic of film.

Certain cities stand out for their light, as the sky plays a key role in the unfolding of their daily life. In some of these, citizens often gaze at the sky or show a special interest in finding the best places from which to watch the sunset. Yet when night falls, people like to find habitable shade, both on the city streets and inside its buildings. How many love stories would not have developed if lovers hadn’t looked at each other under the overlighting so often found in urban restaurants?

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Bernardo Bertolucci: Ultimo tango a Parigi, 1972. Photography: Vitorrio Storaro

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Alfonso Cuarón: A Little Princess, 1995. Photography: Emmanuel Lubezki

Because human beings are avid for stories and are perfect charmers. Unwittingly yet intuitively, they realise the importance of atmosphere, of the emotion of feeling that they are in the precise place and moment, where very often they have no need for words and gaze freely at smiling eyes or a hand resting on a table; where a story solves their conflict to the rhythm of a love song or an epic symphony. That place where we sense that everything is perfect before saying with conviction ‘Three … two … one … Action!’