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The Costumes
In a story where disguises and mistaken identities are pivotal to the plot, the costumes for CASANOVA quickly became another essential element of the film's creative design. Add to that the fact that Venice in the 18th Century was that fashion capital of Europe—with its piazzas and palazzos constantly thronged with beautiful courtesans in fabulous creations— and the costuming challenges for the film were quite clear.

To meet them, Hallström collaborated with Academy Award®-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan ("A Room With a View,” "Gosford Park,” "Alexander”) to recreate authentic Venetian outfits from the 1740s and 1750s. "The idea was not to push for comedy in the costumes but to stay real and portray the dramatic splendor of Venice as it actually was,” says the director. "It's such a fun period to design and Jenny did a fantastic job in helping me to forge an authentic background. She especially did a great job with the wonderful masks and disguises and some of her dresses are just stunning.”

Beavan was immediately intrigued by the story. "I loved that it was a comedy set in such a fascinating period,” she says. "The script was very funny but Lasse and I agreed that you don't need funny costumes to highlight the comic elements. It can be much more powerful to remain faithful to such a wonderful period that is filled with interesting fashions in the first place.”

Diving into research, Beavan began by looking at artwork from the period, drawing inspiration from such artists as Guardi, Canaletto and Pietro Longhi. "I gleaned from them the colors of Venice, with burnt reds and amber yellows and turquoise blues, and we incorporated those into the costumes for all the main characters,” she notes.

Beavan was also struck by how romantic and opulent the clothing of the time was—reflecting an increasing tolerance for open sensuality in society. "The men usually have big skirts with a huge amount of fabric in them and they really strutted about like peacocks. This was a perfect era for Casanova, because the feeling of the cloth actually makes you want to swing your hips. For the women it is quite a long-waisted, big full-skirted period.”

She continues: "Venice also had its own peculiarities and special features, mainly to do with Carnevale, where people wore masks so they could go about incognito. They would wear long black capes with a white mask and the look was very ghost-like. I haven't seen this look anywhere else in Italy. It was topped off with a black tricorn hat. For CASANOVA, we used this strange and sinister Venetian anonymity to also play on the fact that there are so many mistaken identities.”

To dress Heath Ledger as Casanova, Beavan wanted his outfits to be charming and befitting a man of his reputation without turning him into a dandy, so she kept his look elegant but simple. "This is a comedy so our Casanova is not like the tortured Fellini version, for example,” she says. "When our Casanova falls in love with Francesca, it's for real, but he's also a near-mythical character so we played with those lines. I had huge fun with creating his look because it was a wonderful opportunity to make some very beautiful costumes. Also Heath really took to it and loved the heels and lace, and in a way I think he felt that his costumes were a refuge. Heath also studied modern dance for six years so he moves well and makes the clothes look wonderful.”

It was Ledger who suggested to Beavan that Casanova might shift from one color outfit to the next throughout the story. "So he has a red outfit, and a blue outfit, and a grey one as well as others,” she says. "They're all quite eye-catching and quite sharp. That's the Casanova look. When he relaxes, his shirt hangs out and he lets his stocking roll down but when Casanova goes out, he's putting on an act and he d

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