The Snoot Letter
Issue #17 – May 19, 2020
I caught Mirai over the weekend, and it’s the best cinematic encapsulation of young siblings I’ve ever seen. The story follows a 4-year-old as his parents bring home his newborn sister. I think the film resonated especially deeply with me, as this is so similar to the age gap with my own sister, and because I have two pairs of young nieces with similar age gaps right now.
If you’re a fan of architecture in film then you’ll love the house that Mamoru Hosoda had designed for the film. Even though the film is animated, the house they live in was custom designed with the input of Japanese architect Makoto Tanijiri. From the first scene, I knew this was a house I’d want to be inside. It felt organized and thoughtful in a way that great architecture can provide, but with a lived-in reality that is unusual in cinema. A great architect’s theory meets the family and chaos of a young family. And the house is perfectly cinematic for the perspective of a 4-year-old child, having to navigate stairs any time he needs to go anywhere.
As someone who loves bold architecture, I’m often frustrated by the way houses like this are portrayed on camera, both in narrative film and in reality shows or architectural photo-shoots. The houses always feel unlived in, with none of the beautiful chaos that comes from real life. It’s like the difference between an unlit candle and a lit candle. Yes, the lit candle is destroying itself, but it’s vastly more beautiful and interesting. And the more conceptual the space is, the less real it will feel. It makes architecture and design feel out-of-reach, rather than something that we can incorporate into our own lives.
I love that I have a deeper understanding of the reality of a house I saw in this animated movie than I do for most live-action films.
It’s inspiring to see this level of thought put into the production design of central locations in a movie. I usually work in low budgets, and it’s a constant frustration that we don’t have the resources to design and customize every element of the movie we’re making. That’s why I find it so deeply depressing when big budget movies don’t take advantage of the resources they have available to do things like this. Especially because it’s rarely much more expensive to build a thoughtfully designed set than a generically designed set. Decisions made for convenience and the optimization of limited resources are understandable in a $5m movie, but less so in a $100m movie.
If you want to hear more about the design of the house in Mirai, I recommend this short making-of interview with Mamoru Hosoda.
I’ve only seen two of Mamoru Hosada’s films – Mirai and the equally wonderful The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – but I have a blu-ray boxed set of his work that I can’t wait to dig into.
~ Keith Calder
This Week’s Recommendations
📺 I also caught The Outsider on HBO, and I thought it was great. It’s exciting to see the formula of a high-quality detective procedural TV show being used to solve a supernatural mystery.
⌚️ If any of you have an Apple Watch, I highly recommend the “Solar Dial” watch face. It’s the first face that actually makes me think the Apple Watch can be beautiful.
📖 I’m in the middle of Shorefall, the sequel to Robert Jackson Bennett’s wonderful fantasy novel Foundryside. I think Bennett is one of the most exciting fantasy authors working today, and I highly recommend checking out his work.