10 Films - 1 Room

By Christian Bell

If there is one thing certain to drive your production costs up, it's locations. With the time it takes to pack up, unpack and get set up again, you'll find that half the day has gone before the camera is even rolling. So why bother? Here are ten films that prove one location is all you need.

1. Cube – Vincenzo Natali

Not only filmed on one set but creatively reusing it over and over, Cube features six characters trapped in a seemingly endless maze where the colour of the walls is all that differentiates one room from the next. Only one cube was ever built and sliding panels were used to change the colour.


2. The Duel Project (Aragami / 2LDK) – Ryuhei Kitamura / Yukihiko Tsutsumi

A producer challenged two directors to make a film set entirely in one location and featuring two actors/actresses battling for the duration. And as if that wasn't already limiting enough, he gave them just one week to shoot. The Duel Project was the result. Aragami features two immortal swordsmen fighting with a variety of different weapons in an isolated temple whilst 2LDK is set entirely in one apartment and follows two aspiring actresses as they fight over the same role and the same guy.

Lo To No Budget Filmmaking with Elliot Grove 3. Rear Window – Alfred Hitchcock

From the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window is often cited as one of his strongest films. Set entirely in one apartment, the film follows James Stewart confined to a wheelchair who whiles away the long summer days by spying on his neighbours through the titular 'Rear Window' of his apartment. He soon becomes convinced that a murder has taken place...

4. Paranormal Activity – Oren Peli

Employing many of the same tricks as the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity somehow managed to gain a similar level of success. The film is set inside the bedroom of a young couple as they attempt to document the 'paranormal activity' that takes place whilst they sleep.

5. Kisaragi – Yuichi Sato

Kisaragi plays like a very Japanese Reservoir Dogs. All the characters wear suits and go by aliases, except instead of gangsters, the characters are a group of obsessive fans from an online forum and instead of hiding out in the wake of a robbery, they are meeting to mark the anniversary of the suicide of their beloved but talentless idol, the title character, Kisaragi Miki.

6. University of Laughs – Mamoru Hoshi

Another title from Japan, University of Laughs follows a struggling playwrights desperate attempts to get his new play passed by the relentlessly strict wartime censors. Taking place almost entirely in the censor's office, the film pits a writer who always goes for the gag against a censor who has never laughed.

7. Tape – Richard Linklater

Taking place both in a single motel room and in real time, Richard Linklater's 2001 film follows the tense reunion of three high school friends as they deal with long buried issues. The motel room was actually a meticulously constructed set, throwing in tiny details such as the curtain cut around the air conditioner.

8. Exam – Stuart Hazeldine

One from the Raindance festival, Exam has eight candidates competing for the ultimate job and deciding how far they are willing to go to get it. Playing like a mix of 'The Apprentice' and the aforementioned 'Cube', this smart British thriller arrived with impeccable timing at the height of the recession when going to desperate lengths for employment was an all too believable scenario.

9. Rope – Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock again. Not only is Rope set entirely in the same apartment but was filmed in a series of extended takes with cuts cleverly hidden throughout the film. Various parts of the set had to be be wheeled out mid shot to accommodate the moves of the camera and even a cameraman breaking his foot failed to disrupt the takes.


10. Dogville – Lars Von Trier

Not set in one room in the conventional sense, Dogville was filmed on one soundstage but set in an entire town. The film took minimalism to dramatic new levels with walls marked by lines on the floor, actors turning imagined door handles and only a select few props extending into three dimensions. Lars Von Trier later went on to use the same technique in Manderlay.

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About The Author

A graduate of the Metropolitan Film School, where he made short films about tortured misunderstood artists, Christian now devotes his time to the Raindance cause in the hope that he can somehow make amends for his crimes against cinema.  He spends all too much of his time watching films no-one has ever heard of and then preaching the word to all who will listen.


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ten films shot in one room