Plakiat on Designing the “Napoleon” Film Poster

“Napoleon” (2023) film poster design by by Maks Bereski © Plakiat


A film about Napoleon, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Joaquin Phoenix. It’s hard to resist putting the actor center stage on the film poster. And yet, that’s what film poster designer Maks Bereski aka Plakiat did. Not only that, but his concept for the poster is so vast and ingenious that it contains a whole world in itself, bordering defying categorisation and allowing the film to exist in its own space. I have had the pleasure to talk to Maks about his work at length in a previous interview, and today he goes into every detail of the making of his poster art for Napoleon.


Can you tell me a few words about your approach for your poster for Napoleon?

Let’s start with the context, as it’s crucial here – I created the post in August 2022 as The Plakiat Poster, at the time there were no trailers or official images from the film yet. There were a few news reports that Ridley Scott was planning to make a Napoleon film, but not much information about the film itself. So the poster required research and intuition, something that is usually important in my posters. A film director friend called it ‘Francis Bacon-esque’ and this is partly true, but I think the main inspiration was the Polish School of Posters, the corporeality, the disappointments in the chambers and in life outside politics (quite failed marriage), sexuality and the theme that I assumed would be important – creating a symbol and an iconic uniform that is a monument, a top layer, a certain creation for the audience, but underneath it all is a human being, full of doubts and emotions. I hadn’t watched the film at the time, so I found after the fact that I had hit on a prediction, gathering few clues. In the summer of 2022, I knew I wanted to reference the French leader, also remembering Kubrick’s unfulfilled film. I wanted the poster to be dark, somewhat reminiscent of retro Polish poster paintings with painted typography; I had a model who I shortened in proportions and widened at the waist to match Napoleon’s figure. I also wanted to play with the iconic hand gesture, so that the ruler’s excessive responsibilities and numerous failures could be depicted with a distressed face hidden under the gesture of a politically-created persona. The film was initially going to be called ‘Kitbag’, a tagline was given in the media, which was the inspiration for the Scott I painted on the poster. At the time, it was my 268th poster for Plakiat, it came out before all the other Napoleon material on my channels and the Movie Poster of the Day profile made for MUBI.


Have you ever made a film poster in this way before, not only without having watched the film, but especially without having seen any images or having known much about the film itself?

Yes, and to be honest I can say that not so rarely. Few examples are ‘Interstellar’, ‘Blonde’ (editorial note: here is what Maks said about his Blonde film poster in our previous interview), ‘Mary Magdalene’, ‘Cruella’. If one knows the backstory and the movie industry, the message and the moral of the film, then the screening itself doesn’t bring that much new, it only confirms the aforementioned. We also live in the age of trailers, interviews and press articles. There have also been posters created from the script, without any visual references.


Did your design style also take into consideration the period the film takes place in? Do you usually reference that in your style of illustration?

This is one of my rules, although not used every time – there are many deviations, depending on what I want to convey to the viewer. The plasticity of the image and the visual side responds and dialogues with what I will communicate, each film is a different, separate and distinct whole created by different teams, so it would certainly be a mistake and absurd to create with one technique. The multiplicity of titles undertaken gives me the opportunity to create in multiple styles, often in inspiration, reference, evocation of design history and so on.


What did you think about the poster after you watched the film?

I try to show the poster only when I am satisfied with it myself, as a movie poster artist, a person with a Fine Arts background, a cinephile and someone immersed in the film environment. When a poster post comes out on Plakiat, I can sign off on it and the screening afterwards is for me only a confirmation of what I have done before. I also try to attend pre-screenings and film festivals, so I happen to see a film in before mass audience in cinemas. I remember saying to myself after a screening of ‘Cruella’ or after ‘Dream Scenario’, ”I would have done it exactly the same now as I did then”. If you go deep enough into the subject matter and create with heart, it will show – whether it’s before or after the premiere. Besides, I’ve been creating Plakiat for 15 years, so I can say that I’ve adapted my mind to work like that.


Thank you, Maks, for taking us behind the story of your poster design.


Website: | Instagram: @plakiat
Facebook: @PlakiatDesign



”My posters are basically my emotions”:
Interview with film poster designer Maks Bereski

“I was the first person to photograph Wes Anderson when he started out as a director”:
Interview with photographer Laura Wilson

In conversation with costume designer Vicki Farrell

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