Yesterday saw the start of the Glasgow Film Festival. Ok, I accept that it doesn’t yield the same type of media hype and excitement as Cannes but Scotland is a country that attracts all manner of filmmakers, much more so than most people realise!
Saturday night has increasingly become “movie night” for me over the past few years (boozed up evenings in “happening” local night spots are quickly becoming just a memory of my youth!) Whether it be a visit to the cinema, or just grabbing a DVD from the video shop, I like nothing better than to sit back, relax and watch a visually impressive action, a hair-raising horror or a gripping thriller. I love the way that films can completely envelop you in a story, transport you out of your sitting room and into a world far removed from hum drum everyday worries!
It is probably the way that great films can leave you feeling invigorated or inspired which leads to their popularity, our need to find out more, and even a wish to visit some of the locations that host such compelling story telling. I remember the rush of visitors to Rosslyn Chapel following the success of The Da Vinci Code (initially inspired by the book but shared with a wider audience through its conversion to film), the number of people through the church doors soaring by a massive 72%!
The Da Vinci Code is an obvious example of a film that uses Scotland as one of its locations, but when thinking about others then there are those films where it is very apparent that they have Scotland as their backdrop. With its “historical” (I say that in the vaguest sense of the word) Scottish storyline, Braveheart was filmed in a number of places in Scotland. Sets including Glen Nevis Valley (where they built the village that Wallace grew up in), the mountains that stretch between Loch Leven and Glen Nevis (location for Wallace’s trek along the mountain path) and more surprisingly Edinburgh Council Chamber (used to shoot some of the scenes inside Mornay’s Castle). Similarly, the film Rob Roy just had to be made in Scotland, didn’t it? As well as sharing some of the locations chosen by the makers of Braveheart, it was also filmed in Glen Coe, Glen Tarbert and at Drummond Castle to name just a few!
My personal favourite has got to be Highlander (if you don’t agreed then you canvote for your favourite using my poll at the bottom of the page)– classic 80’s movie making with more than a few clues that its director used to make music videos! The use of the iconic 13th century Eilean Donan Castle east of the Kyle of Lochalsh is inspirational as the place from which the MacLeod clan leave to go to into battle. I have to say I was pretty pleased to hear the news that there are plans to remake the original – I do hope they decide to film it here!
Others, that don’t so quickly spring to mind, include the bond films From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Loved Me and The World is not Enough as well as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Glenfinnan Viaduct) and the cult classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail (I doubt the coconut shells that took the place of horses were anything to do with Scotland though!)
More recently, the film Valhalla Rising was filmed entirely in Scotland taking full advantage our rugged landscape to create some really stunning backgrounds for its scenes, but, if I’m honest, having watched it myself I have to say for me that was its only redeeming feature!
If you look at the major films that have used Scotland as a setting, generally they tend to be those with a historical storyline, telling the story of a time now long past and when you stop and have a look around at the magnificent scenery that is so abundant in Scotland it is clear to see why. So much of our lands are sparsely populated, unspoilt and spectacular that even without cinematic lighting, numerous cameras and a bunch of highly paid actors it is easy to believe that you have been transported back in time!