Barbie: director Greta Gerwig’s sources of inspiration

The long-awaited Barbie movie is released today. Seeing life in pink, thinking, eating and living pink – that’s what the Barbie movie is all about. But that’s not all, of course. Director Greta Gerwig delivers a feminist, libertarian and intelligent version of Barbie, breaking the codes and stereotypes surrounding the world’s most famous doll. And to do so, she has drawn inspiration from a variety of sources. Let’s find out together.


From the humor to the sets, from the actors to the characters, everything has been thought out and rethought by American director Greta Gerwig. For her film, she drew inspiration not only from the world of Barbie, but also from the real world, which she satirizes in a way. Indeed, for her, Barbie Land is what we see on screen, a representation of the cinema, and the “real world” into which Barbie arrives is reality, or the other side of the coin.



For the sets, the director drew inspiration from a number of films, starting with Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Big Fish. We’re also thinking of Jerry Lewis’s The Ladies Man, released in 1961. This creative comedy with astonishing set design features a house divided into different worlds, each belonging to a different woman. An idea echoed in Barbie, with the many dolls living in their enchanted little apartments.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


Extract of Barbie’s movie 


Big Fish


Stanley Kubrick’s memorable film 2001: A Space Odyssey is also worth a mention. The giant monkey can be likened to a giant, smiling Barbie watching little girls play with dolls.


Among the other films mentioned are many classics from Hollywood’s golden age, such as The Wizard of Oz, with its path of golden bricks, reminiscent of the pink brick path seen in the Barbie trailer, but also Les Chaussons Rouges for its use of color and Un américain à Paris with its iconic opening scene, in which the protagonist’s morning routine is very similar to Barbie’s.



The Wizard of Oz


Extract of Barbie’s movie


In addition to Hollywood films, Greta Gerwig also cites more modern sources of inspiration such as Tim Burton’s Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and Saturday Night Fever, in which John Travolta’s steps recall those of Margot Robbie, dancing to the song Dance the Night Away by the famous singer Dua Lipa, reincarnated as a mermaid in the film.


French cinema has also been a mood board for the filmmaker. Starting with two Jacques Demy classics, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort and Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, in which Catherine Deneuve’s hairstyle is said to have inspired Margot Robbie’s, but also Max Ophüls’ Madame de… by Max Ophüls, for its long panoramic shots. Or Jacques Tati’s Playtime, in which the director constructs a superficial world not unlike that of Barbie dollhouses. In Playtime, Tati unveils a delirious world that reveals all the flaws of the human being, and this is what Greta Gerwig wanted to show, among other things, when Barbie and Ken arrive in the “real” world.


Les Demoiselles de Rochefort



In terms of look and feel, Gerwig was greatly influenced by musicals, starting with those by Gene Kelly, who “has always been my favorite“, she confided. Singing’ in the Rain inspired some of the film’s dance sequences: “When Gene Kelly dances with Cyd Charisse on the stairs, and she has this long white scarf floating down, that’s kind of how we wanted to model a dance moment between Barbie and Ken“.



Between science fiction, musicals, auteur films and great actors, successful director Greta Gerwig drew inspiration from the greats to make Barbie one of the greatest comedies of her generation.


The sets, characters, voices, movements and characteristics of the characters are all nods to the cinema. As well as being a reinterpretation of the iconic Mattel plastic doll, Barbie seems to be a tribute to the 7th art. In theaters since 10 a.m. this morning, it’s a must-see. And to be watched again and again to spot the dozens of references hidden in the film’s 2-hour running time.




Featured photo : © Press

Apolline Prulhiere est une jeune journaliste en herbe. Elle se passionne notamment pour la mode et la culture, et s'est récemment découvert un intérêt certain pour l'automobile. Sa plume enjouée se caractérise d'une grande richesse lexique, d'un ton direct et spontané. Son glossaire précis élimine l'incertitude.


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