Spiderhead Movie: Creating a High-Design Fictional Prison

Not everyone who loves good design is evil genius. But we have to admit that Chris Hemsworth’s character in the spider head film, on Netflix, filled the prison where he conducts not exactly kosher experiments on inmates with furniture you might find in one of the best AD home visits a lot of meaning.

The film, which hit the streaming service late last month, is based on the short story “Escape from Spiderhead,” by George Saunders, published in The New Yorker in 2010, and stars Hemsworth as Steve Abnesti, the man in charge of a correctional facility housed in a striking brutalist building on a remote island. There, inmates have double beds, Charlotte Perriand CP-1 wall lights, and reign free to hang out in each other’s rooms or in the common area, where they can play arcade games on a sleek machine. in wood (of which only 12 were made), imagined by Hervet Manufacturier, the retrofuturistic French brand founded by the creative director of Daft Punk, Cédric Hervet, and his cousin Nicolas. Protagonist Jeff (Miles Teller) and his companion, prisoner Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett), enjoy these benefits in exchange for participating in Abnesti’s experiments. They are given various medications via a surgically implanted device, and their reactions are observed and recorded.

Abnesti’s custom-designed console “was the main beat of the film” as far as production designer Jeremy Hindle is concerned. Test subjects are seated in Barber Osgerby Compact Armchairsby Knoll, which have been upholstered in yellow Spinneybeck Riva leather to match the rug, a color that is not usually available from the furniture manufacturer.

Courtesy of Netflix

It seems like – sort of – a fair compromise at first, until Abnesti’s true motives turn out to be more sinister. As the layers are peeled away on this arrogant man whose lust for greatness has decimated any sort of moral compass he may have once possessed, the film’s design does a lot of work to communicate his bizarre psyche. Director Joseph Kosinski, who also directed Teller in Top Gun: Maverickhired the production designer of this blockbuster, Jeremy Hindle, to spider head thus, giving him the following briefing: “I want you to put on the greatest show you’ll ever put on in your life.” The idea is that this is Abnesti’s patented version of prison heaven.

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