Following on from the last research piece, I began exploring the interior meaning of ‘home’ as a concept. My dad added to this architecture theory and said that the interior is much more controlled by the individual in terms of choice, sparking considering for the meaning of decor in the house. According to Corrigan and White, the “mise-en-scene” (everything within the frame, the set design), is driven by an instrumental purpose of projecting information relevant to the character or the setting they are in (2012, p. 71). In our film, like with the house itself, the props, costume and everything we scatter around the house as to be done so with meaning and purpose. But rather than point out the obvious, I turned by attention to Csikszentmihalyi and Rocherg-Halton (crazy names, I know), and their book ‘The Meaning of Things’ (1981), which explores the connection between people and their positions.
As the writers explain, our things are not simply for survival or to make it easier and more comfortable to live, but they “embody goals, make skills manifest, and shape the indentities of their users” (Csikszentmihalyi and Rocherg-Halton, 1981, p. 1), echoing my dad’s statements. These are ‘person-object transactions’ – the relationship between the individual and they connect or use the thing is what matters. In 1977, the writers interviewed 82 families from the Chicago Metropolitan Area to find the most chesrished object in the house. The results (p. 57):
One may say that funrature is cherished based on comfort, but after considering Japanese and Hindu homes, it’s suggested that it being at the time represents a “settled life-style” and symbolises “stability” (Csikszentmihalyi and Rocherg-Halton, 1981, p. 59). That was the point that struck me for consideration. I got so caught up in the idea that decor within the house was based on aesthetic and comfort, when really what matters is how it exists within the home. As Csikszentmihalyi and Rocherg-Halton continue, furnature helps “embody memories and experiences; because they are signs of the self and of one’s family” (1981, p.62). What I’ve found here is a gem of important information. The design of a building is about shelter and safety, but a home also comes with a means of comfort. Essentially, we can look at the narrative from the point of essence, that is, how presence, legacy and memory are manifested in the environment. If the character is feeling a sense of loss, whether it be in his job, companionship or even psychologically, it can be explored more softly and elegantly with the mise-en-scene.
As the writers cotinue, things like visual art, photographs and books aren’t so much a value of entetainment, more so than to “construct the idea of meaning in people’s lives” (1981, p. 66), especially in photographs, where they feel nostalgic and preservated. If we are to add these components, they must do so narratively. For example, photographs of a girlfriend or treasured memory, but have them face away or down as if he has chosen to reject these memories – so the placement also plays fundamentally into the expression of the story.
The most surprising one that really got me thinking symbolically was the high regard for plates. According to the writers, when you consider the number of fragile objects in the home, the majority of them soon bound to get broken. “To preserve a breakable object from its destiny one must pay at least some attention to it, care for it, buffet it from the long arm of change” (1981, p. 83). It was incredibly profound. A plate is a symbol of fragility, much like our character’s feelings, so a broken plate in context has a tragic appearance. It’s like an Andrei Tarkovsky film.
In the video essay above and supercut below, I was marveled by Tarkovsky’s emotional methods of storytelling. In the scene I’m talking about specifically, we have a man who lights a candle over the course of one 9 minute take, he takes the candle to the other side of the empty pool as a promise to a madman that if he succeeded, the world would not parish. In doing so, there is a fragility to the candle as it’s established as the lifeline of the world. If it goes out we assume the world to end, so that flicker and intense slowness is pivotal to the success of the emotional core of the scene. It’s about preservation, and the character’s state within the house is a reinforcement of preserving depression, which is something that is difficult to defeat and thus becomes manifested in a perpetuating cycle of misery. Like how the writers conclude, the meaning of an object is both “physical and psychological” (1981, p. 174), symbolic to the user rather than it’s expressive possibilities. It’s a reflection of the identity of an individual and as a such, it’s purposeful, maybe not to the audience, but to the character it belongs to.
In concluding, Winters, in his theorectical examiniation of architecutre, echoes a broad assumption I and the team can look towards as we design and develop our enviornemnts. Expression is not about “how things look” but “how things feel to us” (2007, p. 140). Treat it instinctively and emotionally, and eventually, it’ll work.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. and Rocherg-Halton, E. (1981). The Meaning of Things: Domestic symbols of the self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Winters, E. (2007) Aesthetics and Architecture. London: Continuum