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Film Settings that operate like characters 
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Post Film Settings that operate like characters
I know the subject heading is worded oddly-- but my question is: What settings in film feel or operate as characters of their own?

For instance, The Overlook in The Shinning. The Overlook is the main setting of the film, but it's so much more--it acts as an entity throughout the course of the film. It scenery is indicative of a haunted past, its walls and cracks are filled with horrifying tales. When Jack Nicholson is in The Gold Room he tries to pay the bartender (Lloyd) his previous night's tab, but the bartender tells him that his "money is no good here" .."Its the House's orders." This scene in particular audibly invokes the mental image of the House as this "thing" per se, and elusive dark figure that is unseen.

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Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:01 am
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
Excellent topic! My first example isn't so popular, even though it's an obvious one: Resident Evil.

This topic brings to mind all sorts of great movies. Groundhog Day and Truman Show come to mind first. Exterminating Angel maybe. There's films where the city is so emphasized that it takes on a life of its own, like The Third Man or Nashville. Watchmen...sort of. The Mist. There's a lot I just can't think of yet.

As an adjunct, how about films where objects operate like characters? Bridge on the River Kwai?


Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:21 am
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
Venice is usually a welcome sight in films, but it's never been as much of a character as it is in Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now.
The floating house on the lake and the natural environment around it in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...And Spring, changing with the seasons as the characters also change.
Also, because I've been thinking about it a lot recently, Tokyo in Lost In Translation is the perfect setting to emphasize the characters' loneliness.

I agree, this is an excellent topic. I'll be sure to contribute more.

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Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:03 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
San Francisco in "Vertigo". This city doesn't "interact" in any way, but there are a lot of scenes which would play very different if the movie was set in any other city.

I think L.A. doesn't really count since so many movies are set there.

New York City (Brooklyn) in "Do the Right Thing"

Of course any prison in a "prison movie" such as the "The Shawshank Redemption" (in this particular movie: The Shawshank State Penitentiary) - or "Escape from Alcatraz".

Of course the "U-Boat" type U 69 in "Das Boot" - directly linked to the competent and dedicated chief engineer.


Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:09 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
I would say Dark City...but it's not like a character. It is a character


Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:14 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
This is sadly absent from the reboot, but there was always a sense that the Enterprise is its own character with its own soul in the previous Star Trek movies and TV shows. Whenever the crew is in danger, it's not just the people we're worrying about.

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Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:16 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
I'll throw out the unnamed "city" in Seven

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Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:08 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
Its landscape is changed everytime there's a director change, but Hogwarts is so rich in history and details that it becomes its own character. I loved Harry Potter 7.1 than most, but it admittedly lose a little something when there is no Hogwarts featured. More mechanical in feeling, I think.

Also, the town in Cinema Paradiso. Vivid in nostalglia.


Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:23 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown" ;)

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Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:26 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
The world of Pandora in Avatar :-)

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Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:27 am
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
The small town of Lumberton in Blue Velvet.

The San Fernando valley in Magnolia.

Los Angeles in Collateral.

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Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:44 am
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
The one that immediately came to mind: Elsinore in Branagh's Hamlet. Particularly the hall of mirrors. (Exteriors are Blenheim Palace.)

Howl's Moving Castle.

Frankenstein's lab in the 1931 Frankenstein.

Another film where Venice becomes a character is The Thief Lord. It's also used nicely in Bread and Tulips.

Vienna in The Third Man.

The train station in Hugo.

The whole world of the animated film Dragon Hunters with its flying islands and decaying castles.

The Danish town in Terribly Happy complete with the unnatural bog.

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Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:13 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
Just about any movie that involves isolation and survival in the wilderness (e.g. The Grey, 127 Hours, etc.)


Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:57 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
Great responses so far. One that sticks out for me is, obviously, the cube in Cube. I mean, without it, there is no movie. Also the room in the first Saw film, the Cabin in The Cabin in the Woods, the woods in The Blair Witch Project, The prison in Shawshank Redemption (or most other prison movies, for that matter), any house/hotel in any haunted house movie (The Innkeepers, The House on Haunted Hill, etc.).


Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:12 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
I am not sure where the film is based but
The Straight Story's background is so emersive you can almost be in the autumn fields as they were harvested.


Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:42 pm
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
Working class Yorkshire in Kes

Sheffield in the Full Monty

Detroit in Robocop

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Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:37 am
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
p604 wrote:
I am not sure where the film is based but
The Straight Story's background is so emersive you can almost be in the autumn fields as they were harvested.

That would be Iowa (mostly) and southwestern Wisconsin.


Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:16 am
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Post Re: Film Settings that operate like characters
Syd Henderson wrote:

Howl's Moving Castle.



Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:23 pm
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