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Designing 007 - Melbourne Report

3rd November 2013

As the exhibition touches down in Melbourne, guest writer Matthew Harnett attends the press preview

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As you descend into the bowels of Melbourne Museum for the "Designing 007" exhibit, the first thing you notice is the scale-model military helicopter suspended above you, massive and imposing. The second thing - shining with a brilliant silver lustre, and straight ahead as you leave the escalators - is the Aston Martin DB5. The third thing (if you can pull your eyes away from the car) is row after row of cabinets brimming with costumes, armour and set pieces. And that’s just the foyer.

Above: (top) the entrance to Designing 007 at Melbourne Museum and (bottom) scale model of Silva's military grade helicopter, as seen in "Skyfall".

From its launch last year in London, the "Designing 007" has travelled to Toronto and Shanghai, and now finally reached the antipodes for a one-stop-only Melbourne outing. With over fifty years of history and 23 canon movies there’s no dearth of material, and it ranges from the iconic to the highly recognisable to ephemera that only makes sense in the context of the informative supporting plaques.

It's important to keep in mind that this exhibit is all in the name. It's not 'everything Bond' - it's very specifically, very deliberately, designing everything Bond. Don't expect insights into George Lazenby's 007, because what you're going to get is a very carefully hand-drawn sketch of one of the "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service" key action scenes, mise-en-scène foregrounded. This is less an exhibit for the Bond layperson than the keen and keyed-up enthusiast, and keeping that in mind, you won't be disappointed.

The exhibit is primarily composed of themed rooms that become more intricate as you move through them, from the quintessential utilitarianism of Q’s lab and the austere Ministry of Defence interior to the plush opulence of the casino room. This hits an apex in the casino setting, where a pastiche of Bond casinos come together to create an elegant uber-casino, replete with poker-playing costumed mannequins (somehow not as creepy as this makes it sound). Stacks of MONTENEGRO-stamped chips abound, and close-up some of the dresses are impossibly detailed.

There are several more themed exhibit rooms on offer, the final one a similarly elaborate wintry vista, perfect for showing off the "Die Another Day" Icelandic scenery and other snowy sets. The unprecedented access exhibit designers had to the EON archives is evident, not only in the array of props and parts of wardrobes, but in the exquisitely detailed production documents that accompany each Bond setting. The paper designs include everything from the floor plans of labyrinthine lairs to drafts for sweeping wide-angle establishing shots - many of which you’ll recognise as having been incorporated directly into the Bond canon.

There are also the more predictable bits of silver screen glamour. Scaramanger’s eponymous golden gun joins "Moonraker" laser rifles and "Thunderball" harpoon launchers, all tidily curated behind - and sometimes, enticingly, in front of - the glass, each carefully labelled. Interactive displays and wall-mounted televisions replay important scenes from many of the films, though even during the nearly-empty press opening it was occasionally a struggle to catch the dialogue (assuming you need to; presumably Bond purists know it by heart).

The exit is, as ever, through the gift shop, where you can purchase a vast constellation of Bond memorabilia: t-shirts, model cars, even coffee thermoses. There are also a number of books in different formats that go into some detail on the design aesthetics behind the films. These range from passport-sized novelties to weighty coffee table tomes, detailing sets and costumes and a thousand pieces of Bond minutiae.

That isn’t quite the end, however, as you’re led back into the foyer; a perfectly classy Bond Bar has been set up to allow for the possibility of a quenching tipple after all the walking. Decorated with plush seats and lined with Bond promotional material from distant shores (a German poster for "Live and Let Die" merely exclaims ‘SEX’ with a confused-looking Roger Moore in the background), one could be forgiven for imagining one had wandered into the relaxed bar of a spiffy hotel.

"Designing 007" runs from 1 November 2013 - 23 February 2014.

  • Adult $24
  • Concession $16
  • Child $14
  • MV Members - Adult $14, Concession $12, Child $10

Prices include entry to Melbourne Museum between 10am and 5pm on the day of your visit.

About The Author
Matt Harnett lives in Melbourne, works in communications and studies digital literature. You can read more of his work at pantograph-punch.com.

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