Beautiful new cover designs for books on seven of the best romantic films

Talented designers from around the world tell us about their covers for seven new special editons in our book series BFI Film Classics.

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When Harry Met Sally... (BFI Film Classics) by Tamar Jeffers McDonald

When Harry Met Sally... (BFI Film Classics) by Tamar Jeffers McDonald

When Harry Met Sally…

Designer: Ma + Chr

The concept

Our cover is a collage of the different textures and patterns seen during the movie, especially on Harry and Sally’s outfits. Harry is always wearing big sweaters, which are now funny and characteristic of the 80s. For the colours we took the yellow of the car. The symmetry of the collage fits with the parallel of the relationship in the movie.

The technique

We created the collage in Photoshop.

My earliest film memory

Chr: Walt Disney’s Robin Hood or any comic movie with Louis de Funès.

Ma: I remember watching The NeverEnding Story (1984) at pre-school. It instilled a mix of fascination and fear, with the dreadful horse scene in the swamp of sadness.

What inspires us

We are inspired by older designs and we like to find material in flea markets, like photography, old magazines, objects…

L’Atalante (BFI Film Classics) by Marina Warner

L’Atalante (BFI Film Classics) by Marina Warner

L’Atalante

Designer: Richey Beckett

The concept

It was clear to me that I wanted to illustrate the central character, Juliette, played by the wonderful Dita Parlo, and to capture the exuberance she shows in the film. The film shows her in a very transitional moment, and her excitement and wonder as she becomes a young woman, stepping out on an adventure. I wanted to tap into that and decorate the image in such a way as to celebrate her character.

The technique

I used traditional dip pen and India ink on paper. I’ve only recently switched to dip pen, which – although not the most cutting edge method of illustration – gives a real authenticity to the line work. It’s a very organic and honest (occasionally messy) way of working and perfect for a project like this. In contrast, all of the colour is created digitally, although the digital brushes used for colouring are created from original ink and brush work.

My earliest film memory

One of my earliest memories is watching The NeverEnding Story at my uncle’s house in Germany. As the film was German-made (the biggest budget film to ever come from Germany at the time), it was actually released there first. We were visiting, and so we got to see the film before any of our friends in the UK, and my uncle serialised it over a few nights. It’s a magical film, with moments of heroism and horror as well as sadness, but also wonderful special effects and great puppets and creatures. All of this really captured my imagination as a child.

Brief Encounter (BFI Film Classics) by Richard Dyer

Brief Encounter (BFI Film Classics) by Richard Dyer

Brief Encounter

Designer: Rania Moudaress

The concept

I was thrilled to take the challenge of creating an artwork that would reflect the mood and ambience of Brief Encounter. I wanted to share the perspective of the female character in the film, and the weight of such an encounter on a fragile, ordinary woman of that time. It was a challenge to consider the period of the film and its locations, the rush of emotions and the sense of anxiety of such a brief romance and what it could lead to.

The technique

I chose to work on a miniature to be more authentic to the book appearance, which was a challenge since I am known for my large-scale artworks. I used Indian coloured ink, gold leaf and charcoal.

What inspires me

What inspires me changes. Always nature as the nourishing mother. Perhaps the beauty within others. My mother and the world of literature and philosophy I found myself growing up within. My father’s complete and utter freedom in life and art and his unique individuality. My son Alan and the magic of being a child. Music as a peaceful elevated method of expression. Dancing and human bodies. It’s infinite and often unexpected what can inspire us if we let go and be aware to intuition.

Doctor Zhivago (BFI Film Classics) by Ian Christie

Doctor Zhivago (BFI Film Classics) by Ian Christie

Doctor Zhivago

Designer: Michał  Janowski

The concept

The structure of Doctor Zhivago has many layers. Thinking about a book cover I decided to concentrate on the drama of the individual. The visual language I use is strongly associated with figure/portrait painting. It seemed natural to choose Omar Sharif as the subject matter.

Self-preservation plays the main role in our life. Fear, expressed in eyes, is part of this mechanism. People have potential to do both good and bad. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try we can’t remain just pure. It also depends on environment and the circumstances. The luck of choice in a dangerous situation might push us to act against our beliefs. In my opinion it is very well expressed in Doctor Zhivago. To emphasise this inner struggle of a sensitive individual I decided to tear the artwork in half.

The technique

I used charcoal to reflect on classical nature of the book.

What inspires me

Generally speaking it is very important for me to create. The ability of expression inspires me the most. I think that people trying to manifest their presence in many ways. Painting is one of the possibilities. I work from life, photographs and collages. I also use film as source of inspiration.

From Here to Eternity (BFI Film Classics) by J.E. Smyth

From Here to Eternity (BFI Film Classics) by J.E. Smyth

From Here to Eternity

Designer: Eda Akaltun

The concept

I wanted to capture the serenity and beauty of Oahu, Hawaii, where the film is set, as well as the general feeling of a catastrophe about to happen throughout the story. There is an affair that could unfold at any moment, army barracks that could be attacked and political struggles among the sergeants that disunite the men. I wanted to give visual clues within the illustration, but tried to keep the look of a romance novel cover at the same time.

The technique

I used ink, acrylic paint and linotype to create textures and used my own photography from Hawaii, as well as the infamous film still of that kiss on the beach.

My earliest film memory

Not many of the Disney films were available in Turkey when I was growing up, so I remember getting the VCR cassettes from my uncle who lived in the States. The packages made me so happy and I could always tell when they arrived because of the amount of stamps and stickers on them. I cherished them and watched them over and over. I didn’t speak English then so I remember bothering my mother to explain what was going on.

What inspires me

I always had a love and tendency towards anything 50s, which I think is very obvious in my work. The fashion, advertising and design from that time interest me. I have a large collection of ephemera as a result, and I always mix a part of this collection in my work even if it’s a current theme. I like making imagery that has a retro feel but still looks modern.

Gone with the Wind (BFI Film Classics) by Helen Taylor

Gone with the Wind (BFI Film Classics) by Helen Taylor

Gone with the Wind

Designer: HelloVon

The concept

I went with a very close crop of Scarlett’s eye which, with the reflection of the fire in her pupil and the arch of the eyebrow, seemed to encapsulate the themes of inner strength, power, passion and defiance – how she rises almost phoenix-like from the ‘flames’ to overcome the various obstacles put in her way.

The technique

My work is 90% hand-painted and then scanned and composed/tweaked digitally.

My earliest film memory

There was something about the square that the character Roger lived on in 101 Dalmatians (1961) that made me want to live in London. I have a very strong memory of how the pavements were reflective from the rain and for some reason it really stuck with me.

In the Mood for Love (BFI Film Classics) by Tony Rayns

In the Mood for Love (BFI Film Classics) by Tony Rayns

In the Mood for Love

Designer: Jimmy Turrell

The concept

I wanted to hint at both the conceptual themes of the movie and the stunning aesthetics and colours that run throughout it. I used the shot of the couple walking down the alleyway as the main focal point of the cover as I thought it showed a togetherness while also hinting at a distance and coldness between them. The ruins of Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s ancient capital, also serve as a motif for lost love.

The technique

It was done with screenprinting and various collage techniques. In terms of methodology, I try not to pigeonhole myself too much. If I see something interesting when mixing various techniques together I’ll move forward with it.

My earliest film memory

I would say The Wizard of Oz (1939). I was probably about three or four and distinctly remember being transfixed by the scene where Dorothy opens the door and walks from a world of monochrome into the Technicolor of Oz. That scene still amazes me to this day.

What inspires me

Everything, really. The way the light makes a particular shadow on a building, the colours of the Byker Wall (the estate I grew up in), finding beauty in the inherent crapness of things, and London Town generally.

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