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Wonder Woman — which just completed its second weekend atop the domestic box office — begins on Themyscira, the breathtaking island that Diana calls home and also one of the most challenging aspects of the film’s production design.
“We talked about creating a beautiful island, but not being too close to the Greek islands, which is the obvious inspiration,” explains two-time Oscar nominated production designer Aline Bonetto (Amelie, A Very Long Engagement). “We wanted a beautiful, natural environment that the Amazons protect as the environment protects them. It’s lush, green.
“I designed troglodyte architecture for its organic shape,” she continues. “Using the natural cavities as living spaces, the Amazons prove their ability to live in harmony with their environment. In fact, in Themyscira, I avoid as much as possible straight lines. The curved lines evoke more femininity. They also don’t need doors. I tried to show in the design that they live in an open space and are free.”
The result was a combination of location photography in Italy, including along the Amalfi Coast, with visual effects to further sculpt cliffs and landscape as well as the buildings. “We needed a beach for the main battle scene — a white beach surrounded by cliffs,” says Bonetto. “But if you look for a real beach with cliff, it’s not possible to film because of the high tides.”
The throne room was designed as an open grotto with a view of the island. “All the seats for the Themyscirian assembly form a circle,” says the production designer. “I wanted this circle to describe a council room, the place where the Amazons use to meet when important decisions have to be taken in a democratic way.
“It took me a long time to find the right shape of the the stairs to integrate it naturally in this organic space,” Bonetto continues. “I wanted it in an Art Deco spirit but with curved lines. I decided to introduce Art Deco motives in the Themysciran architecture to contrast with the organic lines of the mineral walls bringing modern, stylized lines with their Greek inspirations. By that, I also wanted to show that, although these women live in a natural environment, they had harnessed certain techniques that allowed them to build very refined architectural elements.”
Another point of note, the headboard in Diana’s bedroom, was inspired by Boticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus. “Its shell tells that the Amazons, like her, came from the sea, but also I wanted to design a central metal element that looks like a shield and suggests the fighting that Diana will have to lead,” explains Bonetto.
Wonder Woman is set in 1918, at the end of World War I. The island also serves as a sharp contrast to the outside world, as Diana later travels to London and then the Western Front, with its grayer, darker color palette.
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