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REVOLUTIONARY ROAD

The Design Of Revolutionary Road
"The year was 1955 and the place was part of western Connecticut where three swollen villages had lately been merged by a wide and clamorous highway.” -- Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

When it came to the look of the film, Sam Mendes wanted at once to evoke Richard Yates' detailed portrait of a conformist 1955 America while focusing the camera on the timeless marital conflicts of the characters. The idea was to reveal a world that feels different – a vivid realm of well-upholstered but claustrophobic houses; soaring but soulless city office buildings; and martini-filled but uncomforting evenings with the neighbors – yet is just one step removed from our own. 

"I didn't want people to ooh and ahh at the world we created,” comments Mendes. "I wanted to create a window into that period without making a point of it. The most important thing was to have a very real environment in which Frank and April clearly feel lost. I wanted to emphasize a sense of Frank being very, very alone in the city and simultaneously of April being lonely in the house. You have that visual counterpoint throughout the film – Frank in the masses of people and April in the suburbs – which helps to evoke the central themes of the story.” 

To accomplish all this, Mendes brought in a highly accomplished artistic team including 7-time AcademyAward® nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, Oscar® nominated production designer Kristi Zea, and 2-time Oscar® winner, and 6-time nominee, Albert Wolsky as costume designer. 

Deakins' main strategy was to shoot with a minimal, bare-bones style, without much lighting equipment, to allow for a deep intimacy to develop between the actors on the set. Mendes was very pleased with how Deakins was able to bring so much lyricism to the most cramped of circumstances. "It was sometimes difficult to watch Roger Deakins, who is one of the great cinematographers, cramming himself into a miniscule kitchen with a huge camera, but I think he really captured the claustrophobia of these interior spaces, from the Wheeler house to the Knox building,” says the director. 

Kate Winslet notes that Deakins' work was also greatly appreciated by the cast. "Roger was incredibly inventive on this shoot because we were mainly shooting in a very, very small house with little natural light and yet he found ways to bounce the light all over,” she says. "He doesn't use a soft-focus sort of thing – the look is one where you can see every flaw on our faces and I like that. "  Deakins' photography created a synergistic effect with the design work of Kristi Zea, who has forged some of recent cinema's most iconic sets, from the back alleys of GOODFELLAS to Hannibal Lecter's high-security cell in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. 

From the start, Zea collaborated closely with Mendes. "We looked at lots of pictures from the period, creating a visual bible for the film,” she explains. "Sam is amazingly responsive to visual stimuli. I'd put a picture in front of him and he'd say yeah, this is what I think makes sense.” In addition to the influence of the moody, realist painter Edward Hopper, both Zea and Mendes were drawn to the work of photographer Saul Leiter as a touchstone for the film's style. With their painterly lushness and emphasis on fragmentation and isolation, Leiter's street photos of New York City in the 50s and 60s seemed, for Zea, to echo the Wheelers' story. 

The film shot primarily in the Connecticut suburbs with which Yates' novel is so closely associated. A lengthy search of the Darien area resulted in the ultimate find: two houses, one behind the other, which made the perfect stand-ins for the Wheeler and Campbell abodes. Both houses featured 50s-style architecture affording the production at least a smidgen more square footage. Still, they were tiny by film production standards, which only helped further set the to

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