Pedro Almodóvar and Antxón Gomez

How the set for a film becomes its main character.

04.1.2021

Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almódovar is unquestionably a creature of habit. Consider any one of his films. There will be the familiar troupe of passionate actors who have shared the screen under his direction many times. There will be a striking amount of saturation in the coloring of the film, underscoring a layered and operatic plot line. And most intriguing to us, there will be a dynamic and expressive Almódovarian set. Each eclectic detail will appear more symbolic than the last. This is a genius move on the filmmaker’s part. The film becomes instantly recognizable and with so much happening in the visual field, you simply can’t take your eyes away from the screen.

The ingenuity of these sets is — of course — the result of habit too. That is, they’re the product of the director’s working relationship with art director, set designer and fellow Spaniard, Antxón Gomez. Over many years, the two have collaborated on such iconic films as All About My Mother (1997), Talk to Her (2002), The Skin I Live In (2011) and most recently Pain and Glory (2019). During a recent interview on their partnership, Gomez describes the success they’ve achieved as stemming from a shared understanding that the interior design of a set should be treated as a character itself. Instead of having lines written, the set communicates to the viewer using visual cues that reinforce the actor’s emotions. In this way, the set fills in the gaps of the story, offering details of the character’s lives that they themselves may never reveal or be privy to.

Often evocative of very specific eras from history, the sets readily make use of nostalgia to connect with the viewer. From an interior design perspective this means that iconic furniture is often incorporated, and as with everything the pair touches, it’s always in alternative ways. There are details that link each one of the Almódovar/Gomez films, acting much like a visual signature. The persistent use of red comes first to mind. And especially how red is paired together with stark neutrals or cool colors. It stops you in your tracks. Then there is the incredible (and pointed) art collection on display throughout the set. It’s personal to Almódovar, as pieces from his own personal collection are often folded into the set. The dissection of their beautiful work could go on forever, but we’ll leave you with the stills from the films we most admire. Images are from The Pedro Almódovar Archives and Film Grab.

The Human Voice, 2020
The Human Voice, 2020
The Human Voice, 2020
The Human Voice, 2020
Pain and Glory, 2019
Pain and Glory, 2019
Pain and Glory, 2019
Pain and Glory, 2019
Pain and Glory, 2019
Pain and Glory, 2019
Pain and Glory, 2019
Pain and Glory, 2019
Julieta, 2016
Julieta, 2016
Julieta, 2016
Julieta, 2016
I'm So Excited, 2013
I'm So Excited, 2013
I'm So Excited, 2013
I'm So Excited, 2013
The Skin I Live In, 2011
The Skin I Live In, 2011
The Skin I Live In, 2011
The Skin I Live In, 2011
The Skin I Live In, 2011
The Skin I Live In, 2011
The Skin I Live In, 2011
The Skin I Live In, 2011
Broken Embraces, 2009
Broken Embraces, 2009
Broken Embraces, 2009
Broken Embraces, 2009
Bad Education, 2004
Bad Education, 2004
Bad Education, 2004
Bad Education, 2004 4
Talk To Her, 2002
Talk to Her, 2002
Talk to Her, 2002
Talk to Her, 2002
All About My Mother, 1999
All About My Mother, 1999
All About My Mother, 1999
All About My Mother, 1999
Live Flesh, 1997
Live Flesh, 1997
Live Flesh, 1997
Live Flesh, 1997