Films & Architecture: “The International”

Not that many films can have the amount of high-end architecture as location for their scenes. In “The International” the characters goes to a secondary position – through architects’ eyes - since the movie is a showroom of well known buildings and cities.

The mythic Guggenheim Museum in New York by Frank Lloyd Wright serves as the space for one of the main scenes, jumping to the Phaeno Science Center by Zaha Hadid in Wolfsburg, Germany. Cities where the movie was filmed include Istanbul, Berlin, Lyon, Milan, and New York, showing us an impressive catalogue of “international” architecture.

Let us know your thoughts about the movie and international architecture. What does this concept mean today? Or was it only an utopian modern movement?


Original Title: The International
Year: 2010
Runtime: 118 min.
Country: United States, Germany, United Kingdom
Director: Tom Tykwer
Writer: Eric Singer
Soundtrack: Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Matthew Bellamy
Cinematography: Frank Griebe
Cast: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ulrich Thomsen, Brian F. O’Byrne


The Interpol Agent Louis Salinger and his partner are investigating the International Bank of Business and Credit (IBBC). This investigation is with with the District Attorney, Eleanor Whitman, from Manhattan in a two hundred million dollars illegal business of weapons trading.

They schedule a meeting with an insider informer from IBBC at the Central Station in Berlin; however his partner is mysteriously killed after the encounter. Salinger finds the identity of the informer when he sees that the Vice President of Acquisitions André Clement had died in a car accident. Salinger and Whitman head to Milan where they meet the politician Umberto Calvini, who is a big arms manufacturer, and he explains that IBBC is interested in buying the missile guiding system that he produces in his factory.

When Calvini is murdered by a sniper in a political rally, Salinger and Whitman head to New York following the killer and later to Istanbul, and disclose a scheme of arms supply and destabilization of governments to make their nations slaves of debt. Further, the bank is protected by legal systems and only if Salinger crosses the line he might bring some justice to the corrupt system.


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Cite: Portilla, Daniel. "Films & Architecture: “The International”" 19 Jun 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • Samuel AB

    Seems like another weak plot with strong visuals.

  • Sam Loso

    Aeon Flux also has an obvious appreciation for architecture.

    • Daniel Portilla

      It is already included on the list. Thanks ;)

  • Tsvetan Sirakov

    When you get to know more about architecture, it’s kind a distracting you from the movie-always looking at the background, recognising things, searching for details… It’s still fun though :)

  • Jprati

    I loved it–the architecture made the movie for me. It is also encouraging to see mainstream culture take notice of great architecture, in ways that would have been unheard of 20 years ago. As architects more often become movie characters and architecture more often becomes movie sets, I am tempted to think that the American public is once again warming up to the field. The architecture that we produce, in all of its aesthetic and conceptual glory, is only worthwhile insofar as it enriches and transforms its larger cultural context.

  • LeClare

    On a more logistical note, they were only allowed one day to film the interior of the Guggenheim and the exterior was under construction at the time. The producers built a full scale replica of the Guggenheim interior in Berlin in order to have the flexibility to film the action scenes.

    • ber

      If I may correct you the reproduction was build at Babelsberg Filmstudio which is close but not in Berlin ;)

  • recon::decon

    Also interesting to note is the Phaeno Science Center re contextualized on the side of a ocean cliff. I did a double take when I saw that.

  • Lzen

    In every Michael Mann movie there’s some great architecture,especailly in “Heat” and “Miami Vice” with some sleek minimalist villas that also kinda play a role in the story, emphasizing some character trait and creating a certain atmosphere.

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