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STRANGER THAN FICTION

About The Film's Visual Design
"We must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties which we assume only accessorize our days, are in fact here for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives.” -- The Narrator

Playing out as it does in the zone between comic fable and stark reality, the script for STRANGER THAN FICTION called out for a singular visual look. That was one of the primary reasons the producers were keen on having Forster direct the project. "I knew Marc would bring visual excitement to the story,” says Doran. "It's not just that the film looks beautiful, or that the compositions are all so interesting, or even that the color scheme is so specific. All that is true, of course, but it's the way he brings everything together that is so indescribable and so thrilling.”

Forster brought with him a team of highly skilled design artists with whom he had previously collaborated, including director of photography Roberto Schaefer, ASC, production designer Kevin Thompson and costume designer Frank Fleming. He presented each of them with a considerable challenge: to visually demonstrate how a man slowly uncovers the fact that his reality is in fact a product of fiction. "I like to give each of my collaborators an overall vision of how I see the film and then encourage them to come up with their own ideas,” explains Forster. "It works very well with such a versatile team.”

As further aesthetic inspiration, Forster turned to a 1967 French classic, Jacques Tati's PLAYTIME, a near-silent, slapstick comedy about the strangeness of modern life that unfolds amidst a visually stirring realm of towering skyscrapers, impersonal city streets and sterile offices. "When I first read the script, and thought about how I would approach it, PLAYTIME was one of the first films that came to mind,” says Forster. "I always loved that film, especially how Tati went about creating a world. I thought it really fit in with having to fashion the IRS office with its little, gray cubicles going on forever, a view of a life without escape, where no one can break out of their routine.”

Forster branched out visually from there. "There are many other worlds in STRANGER THAN FICTION that have nothing to do with PLAYTIME,” he continues. "There's Ana Pascal's laid-back bakery world, Professor Hilbert's academic ivory tower, and Karen Eiffel's writer's space. In the film, each of these worlds had to have its own visual style and point of view – and yet they all had to be connected with one another by various visual threads and details.”

STRANGER THAN FICTION is set in a kind of nameless, iconic Big City, America, but when it came to choosing a shooting location, the city that kept coming up was Zach Helm's college town of Chicago. With its classic urban architecture and colorful neighborhoods, the city seemed a perfect match for the film's tone. Such locations as the Hancock Building, the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Illinois campus, the historic Little Village and Daley Plaza seem to speak to the geometric, regimented world of Harold Crick, the isolation of Karen Eiffel, and the unflappable spirit of Ana Pascal.

Observes executive producer Kopeloff: "We evaluated a number of cities, including San Francisco and New York, but we were just so taken with Chicago and its architecture. It screamed out to us that it was right for this film.”

Once in Chicago, production designer Kevin Thompson began his work in earnest. "This film was a great job for a production designer because it's not just a naturalistic world Marc is trying to capture, but one that is always slightly heightened and stylized,” he says. "I approached the design through the obvious contrast between Harold and Ana. Harold lives in this very rectilinear, grid-like world with pale, monochromatic shades a

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