Belle - released 2014 by Fox Searchlight
Director Amma Asante, Producer Damian Jones, Headgear Films/Pinewood Films - 2014
Belle is set in 1780 at Kenwood House, London, directed by Amma Asante and produced by Damian Jones. Staring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sarah Gaddon, Tom Wilkinson and Sam Riley. International theatrical release in Summer 2014.
"Simon Bowles’ lavish production design" variety.com
"Blessed by Simon Bowles’ production design" shockya.com
"Handsome production design" allmovie.com
"supported by Simon Bowles’ lavish production design" honeycuttshollywood.com
"excellent production design" filmjournal.com
"the production design is impeccable" moviemezzanine.com
"Much like 12 Years, the film’s emphasis is on eye-pleasing production design" minnesota.cbslocal.com
"handsomely made with lavish period detail" utsandiego.com
"incredible production design" moviemezzanine.com
"Exquisite production design" anonlineuniverse.com
The opening scene is set in Bristol Docks, there are street scenes in London and canal-side scenes in Camden in the film. Simon Bowles designed one set that revamped to become all three. "The street was made up of a series of archways and overhead walkways with an inn facade at the end. To create the canal-side scene I removed some of the archways and shot the scene featuring the waterway below. When creating Bristol Docks I removed all the archways, dressed in ships and featured the view away from the inn so looking out at the real sea view on location."
In Kenwood House Simon Bowles wanted to make Belle and Elizabeth look very small to enhance the feeling that they were not in control of their surroundings. "Director Amma Asante and I chose locations that had high ceilings and long corridors and maintained a very tight pallet of pinks, baby blues, greys and golds. As we were filming in stately homes we altered the look with carefully chosen carpets, chandelier, curtains, period furniture that we re-upholstered using fabrics within our colour pallet and sometime something as simple as changing the colour of a skirting board and doors brought the focus of the colours together."
As four houses were used in part to create our Kenwood House any details that did not match were unified such as covering brickwork in the reveals to keep them all white to match the exterior. Two of the four houses were built by the same architect who built Kenwood House so elements such as door furniture and fireplaces already matched.
Above; Dressed location as the long gallery at Kenwood House. The green walls at this location didn't sit comfortably with the colour theme that director Amma Asante and Bowles chose so were changed to a rich period blue digitally in post production.
"For Lord Mansfield's Study at Kenwood House I wanted to make a bold statement with the atmosphere to reflect his severity and clear opinion on the law of the country. We chose a very white space to refer to this which I warmed up with mid-tone woodwork and gold details."
"I wanted the dinner party to be a grotesque affair with sumptuous food spread across their table. We had found an archived cook book from the Georgian period which contained recopies for delicacies such as gold-plates fish and large jellies containing shrimp, fruit and rose flowers. They all appeared in this scene."
When the Mansfield's take a trip to stay in the London house in Bloomsbury Square a marked change in their surroundings was the aim. "I chose to make the proportions more human with lower ceilings, to make the wall coverings more sumptuous by using veined marble, emerald felt, mahogany panelling and gold leaf hand painted with Chinoiserie. Belle and Elizabeth looked much more at home and in control within this environment."
The exterior of the Mansfield home on Bloomsbury Square was filmed in London using Bedford Square which was chosen for it's intact architectural detail. "I wanted their house to be very large in the square so I combined two houses by turning one front door into a window, seen here with a green panel inside."
"For Dido and Elizabeth's bedroom at Bloomsbury Square I transformed an existing period location in London. Where at Kenwood House the ceiling was high and their beds tucked together, here the ceilings were lower and their beds at opposite sides of the room."
"The production design is terrific, ravishing" Mark Kermode, BBC Radio 5 Live
"The production values of this film could not be higher if the Merchant Ivory team had constructed them personally. The cinematography of Ben Smithard, the production design of Simon Bowles and the costumes of Anushia Nieradzik so perfectly capture the late 18th Century" easyreadernews.com
"I’m not sure how much BELLE cost to make, but not only does it feel and look epic, but the attention to detail is beyond impressive. The costumes are outstanding and the production design simply jaw dropping, blending top notch CGI with practical sets. My guess is that we’re talking sub-$10million, but Asante’s direction, Simon Bowles’ design, and Smithard’s camera deliver a film that looks like it cost three to four times that." thehollywoodnews.com
Click below to watch the trailer.