Monday, June 05, 2006

Blog Of An Interior Decorator

Calum Marsh

Last week I watched Woody Allen's 'Interiors', a remarkable film about a mentally unstable mother's relationship with her three troubled daughters. It's Woody Allen's first major drama, and it's usually known as Allen's 'Bergman movie', meaning it's very similar to the films of Swedish filmmaking Ingmar Bergman. A few days later I was listening to Death Cab For Cutie's Transatlaticism at work, and something peculiar struck me: the lyrics of the song 'Death Of An Interior Decorator' sounded conspicuously like the events of 'Interiors'. Here are the lyrics:

You were the mother of three girls so sweet
Who stormed through your turnstile
And climbed to the street
But after conception your body lay cold
And withered through autumn and you found yourself old

Can you tell me why you have been so sad?

He took a lover on a far away beach
While you arranged flowers and chose color schemes

Can you tell me why you have been so sad? (x2)

The girls were all there, they traded their vows
The youngest one glared with furrowed brows
They tenderly kissed then cut the cake
The bride then tripped and broke the vase
The one you thought would last the years
So perfectly placed below the mirror
Arriving late, you cleared the debris
And walked into an angry sea

It felt just like falling in love again (x2)

Can you tell me why you have been so sad?
Can you tell me why you have been so...

The mother character in the film is indeed an interior decorator - the metaphor of carefully arranging and designing interiors regardless of the cost being pretty central to the movie's impact - and the mother's husband, who she is quite desperately attached to, leaves her and marries someone else. The last third of the film takes place at the family's old home on the beach; the father and his new love are wed, and the tension mounts as the after-party rolls on. The Death Cab song pays careful attention to a key moment here: while dancing and having a good time, the father's new wife (who is oblivious to the familial distress) knocks an expensive vase from a table and completely destroys it. It's a small detail in the film that has large symbolic consequence: this is a vase that, as Death Cab puts it, was "so perfectly placed below the mirror"; it's an extension of the carefully designed interiors, which this new woman has obliterated. I won't spoil the film by describing the stunning final act (fortunately Death Cab avoids doing so too), but I urge you to see it for yourself.

Turns out Death Cab's Ben Gibbard wanted to pay homage to his favourite movie with 'Death Of An Interior Decorator'. It's a fantastic movie that is largely (and mysteriously) overlooked. What's most surprising is that though Woody Allen was mimicking Ingmar Bergman's style, it doesn't feel like the poor man's Berman - amazingly, it stands beside Bergman's best films, not under them. Maybe people aren't interested in watching a Woody Allen movie that isn't funny, or maybe it's just been out of the spotlight for too long. Whatever the reason, it's a shame that people aren't talking more about this movie. Good thing we have Gibbard to tell us what to watch.

Death Cab For Cutie - Earth Angel

Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlaticism

Comments on "Blog Of An Interior Decorator"


Anonymous mjrc said ... (5/6/06 2:15 pm) : 

i'm not sure i ever would have put two and two together and made the connection between them. thanks for pointing it out. now i'll have to watch the movie again!


Blogger Lee said ... (5/6/06 10:31 pm) : 

You guys continue to amaze me with your posts of Death Cab for Cutie songs that I have never heard of. Speaking of movies, I just put up a movie review at my blog,, if you're interested. By the way, you have just influenced me to watch Interiors.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (25/10/06 3:01 pm) : 

Very cool..."Death of an Interior Decorator" is one of my very favorite Death Cab songs and I always wanted to know more about what inspired it. Last night "Interiors" came on TCM and I decided to watch. About 45 minutes in, the similarities struck me as I started remembering the song lyrics. I actually ended up watching the wedding scene where the father and his new wife are dancing, in front of the mirror with all the vases, just waiting for her to knock one off onto the floor! Strange way to watch a movie... ;)


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