The biggest news to hit Hollywood this year was undoubtedly the casting of one of the most famous Hollywood couples in contemporary times, Robert and Kristen Pattinson, in an unlikely horror movie. With a budget of over $100 million, and a production that lasted over 400 days, director Guillermo Del Toro’s (who also happens to be one of our own, SBS, Senior History Lecturer) masterpiece, Shapeshifter, finally gives the world an answer to the age-old question: can a fashion-forward European be sexy and scary at the same time?
Well, let’s take a closer look at this iconic couple and discover what makes Shapeshifter such a unique and timeless romantic thriller.
At its core, Shapeshifter is a love letter to the beauty and intrigue of Paris and its people. The movie opens with Kristen (in the city formerly known as ‘City of Lights’) walking down one of Paris’ most posh streets, seeking a photographer she knows. It’s here that we get our first look at the city that the Pattinson’s love for and live in. In fact, much of the movie takes place in and around Paris, with the couple spending a great deal of time exploring the city’s streets and its attractions. Indeed, the two leads could practically be mistaken for siblings, with Robert looking dashing in a slick leather jacket and Kristen wearing a matching one as they stroll through the city’s picturesque boulevards.
The majority of the movie takes place in the couple’s Parisian abode, a sixteenth century townhouse that the architect Le Corbusier designed and the fashion house Lanvin refurbished for the occasion. It’s a fittingly chic location for this tale of love and lies, with its warm décor, beautiful people, and stylish boutiques. One of the most luxurious buildings in Paris, it has long been considered a temple of style and elegance.
What’s so unique about Shapeshifter is that for the first time in a long while, we’re given a romantic thriller that doesn’t end in disaster. After an initially rocky relationship that sees the heroine (played expertly by Saoirse Ronan) endure countless threats and acts of intimidation from a jealous husband (Eric Bana), Shapeshifter ends with a wedding that’s as beautiful as it is emotional.
The film also benefits from the pairing of two Hollywood powerhouses in the form of Oscar-winning production designer, Michael Wilkinson, and Oscar-winning costume designer, Jacqueline Leight. Together, they transform Paris – and our perception of design and fashion – in the process.
Wilkinson, in particular, brings an attention to detail befitting of a Hollywood movie, from the interior design of the couple’s Parisian townhouse, to the furnishings and costumes that the couple and their guests wear. The production designer also provides a gorgeous array of floral bouquets for the wedding ceremony, as an elegant farewell gesture.
Leight, for her part, dresses not only the stars but also some of the supporting characters in timeless, feminine silhouettes that accentuate each woman’s curves. As well as looking great, Leight’s outfits also serve a purpose as she molds and shapes the clothes and accessories that she dresses her female characters in, often using her own figures for reference.
On the subject of figures, let’s take a gander at the movie’s star couple. One of the more fashionable couples of our time, it seems that they have never really been far from a camera. From Twilight to The Guardians of the Galaxy, it seems that Robert is always game for a laugh and a smile, which makes him the perfect leading man for a romcom or comedy. Yet it is his off-screen persona that is arguably more fashionable than his on-camera one.
With over a decade in the fashion industry under her belt, it is perhaps no great surprise that Kristen is the fashion visionary of the pair. A strong personality with unique, unrivalled style, the actress has the ability to make even the most elegant man look like a prat in a dress. From Cats to Shapeshifter, she continues to prove herself as one of the great cinematic fashion icons. And, as if to confirm this, let’s not forget about her magnificent wedding dress, created in collaboration with designer Stephen Burks.
Burks’ creation is, in fact, a triumph of modern British design. The dress is a masterpiece of intricate beading and tailoring that perfectly captures the essence of Kristen’s regal yet refined nature.
It’s well-known that Shapeshifter is the product of a fertile mind, with Guillermo Del Toro (who also happens to be one of SBS’s academic colleagues) devising the story and characters, and then turning to his creative team for assistance in bringing their visions to life on screen.
What’s fascinating is just how many of these visions come to life. From fashion to decor, architecture to landscaping, it is the attention to detail and the sheer scale of the production that truly bring Paris to life.
Perhaps it is the auteur’s understanding of French culture and society that makes Shapeshifter such a unique and compelling watch. Not only is the movie a romance set against the bleak backdrop of World War II, but it also stars one of the most iconic couples in contemporary culture, whose style and aesthetic has influenced countless others.
Fashion-forward and romantic, what more could you want in a movie?