The meaning of the “Don’t Worry Darling” scenography

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Sweet spoilers for don’t worry darling ahead. While all the alleged drama surrounding the don’t worry darling may have left a sour taste in your mouth, the film’s lavish set design itself is sure to leave your palate feeling cleansed and give you a renewed sense of appreciation for the film’s message.

The film, which premiered on September 23, 2022, is set in the fictional town of Victory, a California desert retreat home to the mysterious and powerful “Victory Project”. But the real setting is Palm Springs, a cinematic goldmine of dramatic mountains, cloudless skies, and neatly arranged palm trees. The location is defined by its many mid-century modern masterpieces and is the birthplace of the Desert Modernism style, making it the perfect backdrop for viewing the film. The chance to shoot in the West Coast hot spot, says production designer Katie Byron Marie Claire, was a “chimera” come true. “Olivia [Wilde] and [screenwriter] Katie Silberman always thought Palm Springs would be where the movie would be set,” she says.

In the center of don’t worry darlingThe visual identity of is the Kaufmann Desert House designed by Richard Neutra, the house immortalized in Slim Aarons’ iconic “Poolside Gossip” photograph, where Victory Project’s passionate creator Frank (Chris Pine) lives with his wife (Gemma Chan). “We saw a variety of large, ostentatious mid-century homes and nothing really worked,” says Byron. “And then we got a call from [location manager] Chris Baugh as our dream [of using the Kaufmann House] was actually going to work. We threw all our eggs in this basket and ran with it.

Frank maintains his power through mysticism, defining Victory as “freedom from the arbitrary regulations of society” without ever revealing to the residents the plans of his own master plan. And although he is the leader of the community, we rarely see him in his own home. “Frank is a bit like [Richard] Neutra in the sense that he is a meticulous and involved designer,” says Byron. “He knows exactly what he likes about his world-building,” she adds, emphasizing the osmosis between script and setting.

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Filming at the Kaufmann Desert House required recreating many pieces of furniture from the iconic “Poolside Gossip” image. “It was basically like, how can we make this photo of Slim Aarons real?” says set designer Rachael Ferrara.

(Image credit: Slim Aarons/Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

During early discussions of the film’s production design, Bryon kept referring to the words “dark and surreal”. Ultimately, this led to the idea of ​​a “hedonistic, debauched approach to a utopian society of the 1950s”. In her work, she referenced TV shows and commercials from that decade, but knew she had to take the inspiration to extremes to have more impact on screen. “I think these images, although they were popular in the 1950s, would not work on our conscience today,” says Byron.

This is best represented by the home of Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles). But the house also proved to be the trickiest of sets – Byron and set designer Rachael Ferrara had to create a U-shaped glass replica of the house, due to its low, camera-unfriendly ceilings. Filming in the replica altered Byron’s original vision, she says, but it ended up creating a more intimate, voyeuristic feel. “Who’s watching you? she describes the mood. “Is that your partner from the other room?” Do you see it on the other side of the atrium?

don't worry honey set design meaning

“I thought a lot about the rebels of the mid-century modern era,” Byron says. ” Neutral [was] huge inspiration, but also Ray and Charles Eames and their playful aesthetic, and Alexander Girard and his attention to detail.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Audiences spend most of their time on set as Alice spends much of her day at home, cooking elaborate meals, scrubbing surfaces and hanging laundry out to dry. Her home is the base space for her entire arc to build – being seduced by her charming and handsome husband, playing hostess at boozy dinner parties for the other residents of Victory – and it’s also where her arc takes place. .

Living in a house of glass and mirrors, she is constantly followed by her own reflection. As she isolates herself, her home is the only thing that validates a feeling she can’t get rid of. “She’s still good at cleaning, she’s still good at cooking,” Byron says, “but she’s starting to lose sight of what reality is.”

Alice grapples with growing distortions of time and space – waking up in her bed with no memory of falling asleep, being the only witness to a mysterious plane crash – while her distress is ignored by all. the world around her. As she wipes and wipes her glass house, the walls literally close in on her.

don't worry honey set design meaning

“I think [Alice and Jack’s home] also he lent himself to this opulent, Alice through the looking glass images,” explains production designer Katie Byron.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Then, of course, there’s the big capital T-Twist, which reveals the reality of The Victory Project. While it’s unclear whether Alice’s revelation led to Victory’s collapse, the patriarchal paradise only ever existed because women were also given some comfort. “Victory is a simulation designed for men,” says Byron, “But it also had to keep the women in it. You have to play on the sense of intrigue and conscience.

Which explains the simple and playful details of Alice’s house – small statues, ceramic birds – which bring an unexpected lightness to disturb the dark underbelly of the film. “There is a lot of sweetness; lots of cute things, weird things,” Byron says. It’s something, she adds, that psychological thrillers often lack: a chance to infuse a space with flourishes that speak to the housewife’s own version of her femininity. The architecture’s masculine stone and concrete are softened by curtains and shag rugs. Even Alice’s own wardrobe parallels the layered textiles in her living spaces. “I’ve never seen that in a thriller, so we really wanted to push that feeling,” Byron said. “We threw a lot of Alice in there,” adds Ferrara.

Although the film itself leaves something to be desired, the design of don’t worry darling deserves a close look, if only to marvel at its domestic beauty. Because the film was shot during the height of the pandemic shutdowns, it came to represent “a dream of what real life could be,” says Byron. “Inviting people and drinking cocktails seemed so fun.”

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