Watch IN BED: Interior Moods

Words by Shana Chandra

At a time when many of us have been asked to retreat inside, it is likely that we haven’t spent as many consecutive days, let alone hours, cloistered inside. The interiors of our homes or homes for now, may have taken on new meanings of comfort, ritual, or even transformation. We may be working in bed, laptop on knees, concocting in kitchens or dreaming, splayed out on the sofa, a little more than usual. Or, we may be feeling the confines of its walls, more acutely than ever, now knowing the exact shade of off-white our ceiling is. During this time our shelters have become more of our shells, it’s insides matching our chaos or peace. So, in homage to the interiors that have been keeping us company, we’ve taken a look at some of our favourites on screen; the ones we covet, the ones we want to perfume our own with, and the ones that most represent those that inhabit them.

In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)

Wong Kar-Wai’s criminally sensual In the Mood For Love, has Tony Leung and Maggie Cheng (we never get to know their first names in the movie) as new Shanghainese migrants boarding rooms next to each other in a dishevelled but homely Hong Kong boarding house, all peeling paint and filmy windows. When they both find out that their spouses are rendezvousing with each other, their lonely trips to the nearby noodle-house become shared, as do the intimacies of their betrayal. In between late night dumplings, they begin to rehearse moments of how their spouses became lovers, resolutely refusing to share their fate, although by the way they look at each other, you know they do.

What makes In the Mood for Love, so sexy is the simmering tension of suggestion and Kar-Wai’s close ups capturing them; we see brushed wrists down slim staircases, snatched moments in doorways to shelter from hot rain, and the 1960’s décor of moody red with accents of light jade in the lowlight of lamps turned down. As the protagonists’ relationship deepens, the red in Leung’s character’s room begins with just a blanket that Cheung rests under, to a newer room, where the red spawns to the bed stand and the wallpaper, as if his love has seeped into everywhere. Their closeness is forced upon them by the cramped quarters of their building and the swampy heat of a city, spied in the reflection of mirrors all steamed up.

What makes In the Mood for Love, so sexy is the simmering tension of suggestion.

Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990)

Although, quintessentially a road-movie that follows the exploits of lovers Sailor Ripley (Nicholas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) in the gothic backroads of the American South, the interiors we do see of Wild at Heart are a kitschy ode to Americana. Lynch’s acuity is in using these settings to frame his character’s personalities and to help move the story’s arc.

Lula’s fiendish mother, Marietta Fortune (played by an exuberantly evil Diane Ladd) baits Sailor into murder and tries to prevent Lula from seeing him when he bounces from parole, all of her conniving done with a martini in hand and bright pink talons flexed. But she is at her most manic after she commissions her lover to kill her boyfriend, after which, in an ecstatic frenzy she draws lipstick on her wrists (blood on her hands), and then in mad fervour, smears it all over her face and arms, a veneer of wicked made Lynchian by her surroundings; a mundane, child-like room with pictures of dolls framed on floral walls and heart shaped ceramics on her dressing table.

And while Sailor and Lula jump from motel room to motel room along their highway cruising towards California, it is the one where Bobby Peru (William Dafoe) pays newly pregnant Lula a threatening visit that becomes sickening, the oppressive stench of Lula’s morning-sickness in the holed up room, signifying that something is rotten.

A Single Man (Tom Ford, 2009)

Ex-Gucci designer Tom Ford’s debut film is as stylish as one would suspect, and begins with George Falconer (Colin Firth) the man of the title, waking up in bed, from a dream of his ex-lover’s car crash. Told mostly in first person voice over, the film follows Falconer on a single day of his life, a day he has chosen to take it, in order reunite with his dead love and paramour for sixteen years, Jim. As his immaculate mid-century house suggests, a home where you know you will find band-aids in the top drawer of his bathroom, Falconer puts everything in order; his will, letters to his friends, and the suit for his funeral, with a note for his tie to be tied with a Windsor knot.

A recurring motif in the film is Firth’s adamance of his invisibility as homosexual in 1960’s society; his inability to go to Jim’s funeral at his partner’s family’s wishes (told in flashback) is just one of the moments that reiterates that. It’s a feeling that’s reflected in his modernist home (a John Lautner designed beauty), which when Ford zooms out to a long shot of the abode, is neatly nestled amongst Californian trees, not shouting out in stark white, like the neighbours’. The house made largely of glass and slats of horizontal wood, is often how Ford lets us spy on George, who doesn’t know, he is clearly visible. It is through these slats that George looks out too, spying on his neighbours and getting caught, showing him, that people do notice him, just as he notices, every little thing they do on the day he wants to give it all up.

Valley of the Dolls (Marc Robson, 1967)

A campy classic of the so bad it’s good type, Valley of the Dolls is based on Jacqueline Susann’s novel of the same name, and the beauty of the film is that it was made in the 1960’s and depicts the 1960’s, so each manicured beehive, sweep of winged eyeliner and box purse is nostalgically authentic.
The film begins with three friends; the girl-next door ingénue from New England, Anne (Barbara Perkins), the ‘talentless’ showgirl, Jennifer (Sharon Tate) and the self-destructive star, Neely (Patty Duke), who form fast friendships as they begin their showbiz careers in New York. It is in the big apple, that they are still beginning to find themselves, and where each of their one bedroom apartments, reflects these beginnings; magazine cuts outs taped on striped walls and framed photos of home on the bedside table, that give them an air of security in the big city. But as their careers progress, each moving to Los Angeles (the titular valley) for love or money, their houses flash their newer lifestyles, ones open to all this new city has to offer. Neely, who becomes the biggest star, has the pool and ornate bed-stand to prove it; gold coils underneath a ruched pink valance and chandeliers that look out onto its blue water. But it is she who needs the ‘dolls’ most of all, her pills of uppers and downers, helping to handle the demands of the business. We watch her demise amidst her splashy comforts, until her bed stand transforms to the metal clang of a rehab centre.

A campy classic of the so bad it’s good type, Valley of the Dolls is based on Jacqueline Susann’s novel of the same name

A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)

Visually, A Bigger Splash, is stylish to its seams. Set in the lush surrounds of Panterellia, a volcanic island caught between Sicily and Tunisia, it stars Tilda Swinton as Marianne Lane, a Rockstar on holiday, donning Dior by Raf Simmons while reclining poolside, dining al fresco and being seduced by two men; one her photographer lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) the other her ex-partner and music-exec lothario, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). The psychological thriller becomes a quadrangle of lust as Harry crashes Marianne and Paul’s idyll with his newly found 22 year old daughter, Pen (Dakota Johnson) who gazes at Paul over her sunglasses, resulting in a heady atmosphere where every prolonged glance, or honey-tongued compliment fuels a competitive drive between each of the sexes.

All four reside at a lush Dammuso, a traditional Italian stone house of the island, but it is really the tiled pool overlooking the ravaged cliffs where most of the action plays out, hinting at the film’s name based on the David Hockney painting. When we first see the tiled pool in the opening shots, it features Marianne and Paul happily sun scorched and then cuts to them making love in its aqua waters. But once Harry and Pen arrive, the pool becomes a site of war; the two men displaying their bravado in a swimming race as the ladies look on, until ultimately one splash, does become the biggest of them all.