It may come as something of a surprise that despite my enduring love of film, the Bond films have never held any particular appeal for me. The constant double entendres and blatant sexism that tend to be staples of the Bond brand have been the main deterrent, and I have watched perhaps three Bond films in their entirety. Despite my ambivalence, there is no denying the franchise’ standing in cinematic history and since the release of “Dr No,” in 1962, it continues to enthrall countless audiences. Simply put: the ladies love cool James and I have to admit to being intrigued by the news that the Barbican has decided to mark 50 years of Bond with an exhibition, “Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style”. At £12 a ticket, and the option to book a time slot, it seemed a good opportunity to see if after all this time, Bond had the ability to woo me.
Walking into the exhibition, you’re greeted with the familiar guitar twangs of the Bond theme tune and it is virtually impossible not to get caught up in nostalgia. My heart bleeds for the poor ambassadors who are working at the event as they will have had to listen to that all day! The showcase is largely visual; plaques on the wall inform of the process of constructing the famous title sequence, a moving bed complete with a naked woman bathed in gold revolves in the middle of the room and massive screens depict the most iconic Bond sequences. I was very impressed at the sheer scale of the exhibition. The original Bond gadgets are all on display, as well as storyboards and authentic set designs. The exhibition ranges throughout four rooms and visitors are encouraged to move at their own pace.
I was impressed at the attention to detail; the showcase really gets into the craft and design of the films, exploring the social context that abstained at the time of each Bond film’s release, as well as the Ian Fleming novels that the film was based on. One whole room has been devoted to the stunning costumes worn by Bond heroines which will be of great interest to budding fashionistas, and there is also a section solely focused on the Bond villains. There are no photos allowed inside which is unfortunate. There is a lot to take in and it would have been nice to have a keepsake from the exhibit that you didn’t have to pay for. There is, of course, a shop selling Bond paraphernalia and mementos, but it is typically overpriced.
Overall, it was a very interesting and surprisingly educational experience. I left the exhibit with a much fuller understanding of the Bond series and would recommend it as a good first date or alternative to the museum. If Bond isn’t your thing, its worth going just so you can have drinks in the 007 Martini bar on the second floor! There you can treat yourself to a range of martinis, including Bond’s own favourite Vesper Martini.
The exhibition runs until late September and tickets can be booked online. It has been popular so visitors are advised to get there early.