31 January 2007

Art design: Opium - Diary of a Madwoman

Director: János Szász
Production design: Tibor Lázár
Art design: Géza Szöllősi
The movie Opium is set in a mental institution and it is about an affair between a morphine addict doctor and one of his patients. My task was to design machinery that could have possibly been used by doctors to assess and cure mental diseases in the 1912 in a women’s asylum. They wanted me to make devices that seem authentic yet fictional to give the movie a dark atmosphere.
For example there was this scene in the script were Gizella, the main character, a mad women who is claimed to be possessed by the devil gets a “cold water treatment.” Out of a hoist a tank and a straight jacket I made a machine that the doctor uses to calm down the hysterical patient. I wanted to create something heavy. A visual, which seemed medically and historically accurate but was still fictional enough. Looking back at the machineries of the ‘20s, it looks staged since technology developed so fast in the past 80 years. The equipment I described previously was a fusion of the ideas of Henry Houdini, the famous escape artist’s water torture tank and the Japanese bondage. Beside the fact that it looks real, the objects also have an effect on the viewer’s subconscious. It puts more emphasis on the fact that psychology and technology was so backward in those days compared to how it is now and that people believed that insanity was a curable disease of the brain instead of what it truly is. Moral treatment was the most popular form of therapy. Patients were tortured and that sadistic view is also hidden in the objects.