Mise en scène in Kubrick’s black comedy classic Dr. Strangelove permeates every aspect of the movie and becomes a vehicle for many of the main ideas and themes of the film to be portrayed through in such a way that is very rarely seen from most film’s use of costumes and sets. Indeed, the film’s conscious use of set design proves to be where much of the film draws its comedy from. One of the film’s main sets, The War Room, is a masterful work of design that perhaps best showcases and sets up the subtle nuances of the film’s satire better than any other aspect within the film.
The majority of the scenes involving the American government take place in this war room, a huge bomb shelter-esque structure housing little more than a large table with chairs, several ominous lights and “the big board” which tracks and displays the location of all the US bombers across the world. The design of the room highlights one of the main themes of the film, bureaucracy and it’s ineffectual nature as, despite its bomb shelter appearance the war room is implied to be destroyed, along with the rest of earth, at the end of the film.
It also provides one of the great moments of dichotomy in the film, another of the film’s main themes when a brawl breaks out between a general and the Russian Ambassador and the president points out “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!” This line is one of the most prominent examples of the dichotomy and hypocrisy of the Cold War that the film satirizes.