The article explores the functions of film costumes in the works of Cecil B. DeMille, the American film director, whose pictures of the late 1910s and early 1920s are notable for their artistic achievements in the field of set and costume design. On the material of certain films from his “matrimonial cycle”, the author analyses the narrative and spectacular functions of costumes, while making an emphasis on the director’s role in the development of the artistic uniqueness and visual extravagance of Hollywood films of this period.
The films of this cycle display some key strategies in film costume functioning and design methods that would be adopted by the Hollywood film industry to become the new production standard in this field. Among these strategies we should note the focus on development of the aesthetic qualities of film costumes, which tend to be more consistent with the plot of a particular film and its visual style, rather than simply follow current trends in fashion. Another important strategy is the gradual enhancement of the role of costumes in the film narrative structure, especially in pictures about visual makeovers and transformations, as well as in stories about interclass social transitions. Finally, the DeMille films are quite notable for developing the image of a modern woman, as well as focusing on the new ethical aspects of romantic relationships. Films of the “matrimonial cycle” emphasize the importance of both visual attractiveness and the stylish wardrobe for constructing the image of a successful and modern woman who knows how to make the right impression and express herself to get the benefits she wants and to easily achieve the desired goals. This image will be further developed in other Hollywood films in the following years.
As a director and a visionary Cecil B. DeMille also contributes to the systematization of the costume making processes through hiring a creative team of designers and artists who collaborated on developing the distinctive visual style of both sets and costumes within one project. The commercial potential of stylish on-screen costumes has also been explored by Hollywood studios through the success of DeMille’s films.
What if being human is separated from humanity? How some of the most common ideas of Western democracy (equality, political power, humanism) are ex-posed and staged by non-humans? These are my questions for recent Hollywood monies like Transformers or X-man.