Architecture on Film: Cathedrals of Culture

Architecture takes centre-stage in the 3D film Cathedrals of Culture, rather than its more usual background role. According to reviewers, this six-part documentary, directed by six acclaimed filmmakers, explores the cultural significance of six iconic and very different buildings from angles not seen before.

Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House, a futuristic symbiosis of art and life. Photo by Øystein Mamen.

Spearheaded by German filmmaker Wim Wenders, the film asks the question: “If buildings could talk, what would they say about us?” Wenders builds on the 3D techniques he first employed in the documentary Pina. He is joined by Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Michael Glawogger, Margreth Olin and Karim Aïnouz. Each lends a distinctive artistic approach to the project, exploring a day in the life of these “cultural machines” — the Berlin Philharmonic, the National Library of Russia, Halden Prison, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Oslo Opera House and the Centre Georges Pompidou. Narrated by the imagined voices of the buildings themselves, the film ambitiously aims to uncover “the soul of buildings.” While The Guardian’s Oliver Wainright says it presents a “limited and internalised view of architecture”, as a formal exercise its camerawork and visual mastery is captivating.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The Salk Institute, an institute for breakthrough science. Photo by Alex Falk.

The Berlin Philharmonic, an icon of modernity. Photo by Wim Wenders.

The Berlin Philharmonic building, an icon of modernity. Photo by Wim Wenders.

Centre Pompidou

Centre Pompidou, a modern culture machine. Photo by Ali Olcay Gozkaya.

The National Library of Russia, a kingdom of thoughts. Photo by Wolfgang Thaler

The National Library of Russia, a kingdom of thoughts. Photo by Wolfgang Thaler.

Halden Prison, the world's most humane prison. Photo by Heikki Färm.

Norway’s Halden Prison, the “world’s most humane prison.” Photo by Heikki Färm.

Cathedrals of Culture premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. Keep an eye out for its next screenings. In the meantime, see the official trailer:

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