Maria Djurkovic Q&A: ‘The Imitation Game’ production designer
"The biggest challenge was to create something that didn't feel tired or something that we've seen a hundred times before," reveals production designer Maria Djurkovic about her work on "The Imitation Game," which takes place in England during World War II. While tradition dictates that films set during this period should stick to the grays and the browns, as she readily admits during our webcam chat: "I wasn't remotely scared of using color. I always do a lot of research, and that use of color came from the research material."
As Djurkovic goes on to explain, "I find that when I do my historical research, I literally wallpaper the art department from floor to ceiling with the references that are very much the foundation and the starting point for me. Number one, it works as a tool of communication: everybody gets to see the world that we're going to eventually, actually, physically create for the film. But also … the tone, the color pallet always comes out of that, and I don't feel I have to adhere to that and be absolutely, completely tied down by the historical references. But I do want to have a very solid grounding that I can then base everything on, so that every decision I make is an informed one."
The film chronicles the story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), the brilliant mathematician who successfully broke the Nazi Enigma code by building the world's first computer. In addition to designing the sets, Djurkovic and her team had to replicate this massive machine, named Christopher. "We had to create it completely from scratch," she says. A visit to Bletchley Park, the film's real-life setting, allowed her to see first-hand a full-scale replica.
"Instantly, we felt we needed to extrapolate from the reality and make it something that was going to be more cinematic, more emblematic, more powerful. You're trying to do two things: you're trying to make something that's credible, but you're also trying to make something that looks rather wonderful in its own way."
Djurkovic was nominated for a BAFTA for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," (2011) and an Emmy for "RKO 281" (1999), yet has never been nominated for an Oscar, despite working on such high-profile contenders as "Billy Elliot" (2000), "The Hours" (2002), and "The Invisible Woman" (2013).