The Look of Terror: Design of MAMA
Andy Muschietti reveals that he long envisioned the character of Mama "as a Modiglianipainting left to rot." Being a renaissance man, the director designed the original Mamawith reference to the "lowbrow" style -- also known as surrealism -- made famous by Chet Zar,an American artist noted for his dark visual art, makeup effects and digital animation.
The director's extensive drawings and storyboards inspired MAMA Antonio Riestra, production designer Anastasia Masaro and costume designer Luis Sequeira to collaborate on the well-blended color palette and detailed style choices featured in every shot of the film.
In the fall of 2011 as MAMA began production, Pinewood Toronto Studios and locations in and around Toronto afforded the filmmakers the opportunity to build sets and adapt existing locations to the exact specifications of the script.
Creating sets for MAMA further complicated because much the horror takes place in an innocuous suburban house. Even the abandoned shack in the woods is an example of 1950s architecture, not a creepy castle or an abandoned mansion commonly used as settings for this genre. sets not only needed to lend themselves to reality, but also offer the audience spaces in which they could project their worst fears. The Muschiettis credit production designer Masaro and her team with achieving what callsthe "benign but rotten" look they craved.
For her part, Masaro employed colors with an earthy glow. Browns and blacks accompany Mama -- from the moldy way she appears on walls to her wardrobe and the gifts she presents to the girls as she grows to claim them as her own. When it came time to explore the children's world outside of the forest, the color palette was broadened to include yellows, blues and greens. The girls' room in Annabel and Lucas' house, as well as the bedroom in the institute run by Dr. Dreyfuss, needed to be friendly and inviting to kids... yet exclude saturated hues that would conflict with the rest of the film design.
For these spaces, Masaro used bright colors in a muddier range, which that director of photography Riestra subsequently toned down even further. The rest of the movie employed earthy tones to maintain the moody, dark quality that Andy Muschietti wanted to project, continuously reminding us that the long-deceased Mama is still omnipresent.
Del Toro creditsAndy Muschietti for understanding how to generate fear in the film: by using restraint in how much -- or rather, how little -- he reveals the title character. Says del Toro: "can be scarier to not see than to actually see, or to imagine what was seen. is shown just enough that you feel satisfied, but not too much that it loses its punch."
The director explains the approach that he and DP Riestra employed,which Muschietti admits was half-scripted and half-found during the course of production: "One way of creating fear is by not letting the audience see what they want to see, by detaching from their point of view. This device, known as a 'lazy camera,' forgets characters and has the effect of generating tension."
Andy Muschietti praises Riestra for finding the right lens with which to film Mama and accentuate her proportions, and for lighting in such a way that adds visual interest and mood throughout. Riestra's vision for the film was dark but stylized, keeping the detail in significant moments, such as highlighting the characters' skin to show their reactions to what they may -- or may not -- have seen.
Barbara Muschietti raves that Riestra -- who had developed a rapport with the brother-and-sister team in the days they worked together in commercials -- "painted the whole movie with just the right mood, aesthetic and visual texture."
In order to further achieve his vision for design, Andy Muschietti conducted a series of physical tests with Javier Botet that involved manipulating his body movement. Together, they ultimately found the right balance of actor, prosthetics and digital effects. Fear is generated through the physicality a real and livingMama, and thechallenge was to balance computer-generated effects with prosthetics.
The renowned Mr. X visual-effects team led by Edward Taylor provided the hyper realistic element of Mama's hair, while the Oscar-winning Spanish make up effects team of RibĂ© and David Marti, of DDT Effects,built the prosthetics that elongated Botet's neck and fingers and brutally distorted his face to showcase a specter who has lost more than one could ever imagine.
A longtime proponent of blending VFX with special effects, del Toro suggested DDT to the Muschiettis. He commends: "I trust them completely. From THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, PAN'S LABYRINTH, HELLBOY, THE ORPHANAGE... I think they are one of the best teams of makeup prosthetic effects in the world right now, and frankly ever. They are a pair of geniuses, and I knew they were going to be able to interpret Andy's ideas for MAMA."
Costume designer Luis Sequeira brought Andy's cocoon concept to life and constructed Mama's flowing dress to mirror her digitally generated floating hair -- not a simple task when the hair was yet to be created and the actor was wearing a bald cap. Mama walks, flies, grows and mutates throughout the film, Sequeira had to create 15v ersions of the same dress. Each one was hand-sewn and dyed to appear seamlessly from scene to scene as a single dress with a long tail.
Production wrapped, del Toro sums up on behalf of the filmmaking team what they've been sharing since the short MAMA was created several years ago: "The most unyielding force in the universe is maternal love, but when it goes wrong, it produces a very particular brand of compelling horror."
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