Sam Mendes – Empire of Light – Review by Efe Teksoy


Cinema Writer/Film Critic Efe TEKSOY; wrote the dramatic and drama film “EMPIRE OF LIGHT”, for America’s Los Angeles-based Internet Newspaper @alaturkanews.


The first solo screenplay and ninth film by Oscar-nominated British film and theater director Sam Mendes, Empire of Light tells the story of a romantic drama set in England (South Coast) in the 1980s. Lead actress Olivia Colman was nominated for Best Actress – Drama for this film at the 80th Golden Globe Awards, and the film was also nominated for an Oscar Award for Best Cinematography at the 95th Academy Awards. The subtext of the film, which was nominated for 3 BAFTA’s at the 76th British Academy Film Awards, includes the issues of Racial Discrimination and Sexual Abuse. Production Designer Mark Tildesley explains that the main characters are worn and broken people and need care, healing, and repair. We see that The Empire cinema, which is at the center of the movie in which the story takes place, reflects the spirit of a period and has undergone years of restoration. This place was dragged into the chaos of inner turmoil, just as the fragile souls it contained were dragged. However, when we enter this building, which reflects Art Deco architecture, we see that symbolic motifs are given great importance and meaning by the director. In particular, we see that the carpet in the lobby of The Empire cinema is a nod to the Hicks’ Hexagon carpet (known as the hexagon of the famous British interior designer David Hicks) of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick‘s 1980 horror classic The Shining. The main character of The Shining, Jack Torrance (like the main character Hilary of Empire of Light) was a personality that was slowly drifting into madness.


Another important detail is the chair Hilary sits on in the dining room. When we look carefully, we understand that this chair, which seems ordinary at first glance, is not a simple item, but a Cesca Chair. Cesca Chair, designed by the famous Hungarian architect and designer Marcel Breuer in 1928, reflects an important radical design thought in interior architecture with its simple but extraordinary design, Modern and Midcentury style inspired by the principles of the Bauhaus and the designer’s revolutionary innovations in materials. Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who has shown great care in the design and set decoration of his films, showed us his main character (in the scene where he wrote a letter to his estranged daughter) while sitting in this chair in the 2016 film Julieta.


Set in an English South Coast town in the 1980s, the film chronicles the power of human relationships in turbulent times and a dramatic love story set in and around an traditional cinema.

Stars; Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke, Monica Dolan, Ron Cook, Sara Stewart, Roman Hayeck-Gree, Justin Edwards and Brian Fletcher.


The Empire cinema was shot at the Dreamland Cinema in Margate, in the Thanet region of Kent County, England. Built on the site of the 1923 900-seat Dreamland Variety Theatre, this cinema was adjacent to the massive Dreamland Amusement Park on Marine Terrace on the Sea front. After filming, in March 2022, planning permission was granted to remove the original “Dreamland” signage from the exterior of the building to be temporarily renamed “Empire”. Director Sam Mendes cites the rich cultural history of the city of Margate as his reason for choosing to shoot there. In this city, where the British painter J. M. W. Turner painted some of his most famous works, T. S. Eliot, the most important poet and playwright of the twentieth century, penned his masterpiece The Waste Land here. In the movie, too, the character Hilary is seen helping Norman solve a puzzle by quoting from this book. Also in the same place where T.S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land, sitting in a bunker next to the movie theater and staring at the seashore, we see the character Stephen use the same bunker to sit and reflect on his relationship with Hilary.

Drama and romance genre Empire of Light is an impressive production that will take you on a journey towards an emotional and touching universe.


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