24 Oct 2018

When movie locations are deceiving

When choosing a location for a movie or a commercial, there are many factors to be considered. Not always the place where the story is set is the best location. Costs, proximity to interior sets, ease of travel and other logistical issues are often crucial. Not to mention the audience perception and imaginary of the setting, that also must be taken into great consideration

And that’s why the history of cinema is dotted with “false” locations, even in Italy. Some examples? Here are three, all different and symbolic in their own way.


I Vitelloni (1953)

Federico Fellini was from Rimini, a provincial town from which he had escaped and to which he always returned with his films. But Rimini has never been the real location of his films.

The Vitelloni, for example, tells the story of four loafers in Rimini, but not even a single scene was  shot in the city of Romagna.
All the city centre settings are actually shot in Viterbo, the seafront is that of Ostia, while Alberto’s house is in Rome.


Much Ado About Nothing (1993)


“I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Aragon
comes this night to Messina.”


From the first line of Shakespeare’s play we know where we are, the same goes for the film by director Kenneth Branagh. Don Pedro of Aragon is coming to Messina and Mr Leonato’s house is in the nearby countryside.

But even from the very first scenes of the film the eye of the Italian spectator is confused. Something is not right: that countryside looks like, beyond any reasonable doubt, that of Tuscany. And in fact it is so, the film of Much Ado About Nothing was shot in the estate of Vignamaggio, near Greve in Chianti, Florence.

We can only make hypotheses on Branagh’s reasons for such choice: it is possible that the international audience needed to recognize instinctively the Italian setting and what is more “Italian countryside” of the famous hills of Chiantishire?


Ladyhawke (1985)

Even more curious is the story linked to the movie Ladyhawke, a fantasy movie but set in a historical period and in places that are not imaginary.

The medieval setting is captured in a sublime way by the scenes shot between the Alps and the Apennines and in the many villages of Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Abruzzo. The gloomy atmosphere, the mists and the heavy clothes of the actors suggest to the Italian audience a more Nordic panorama, such as a landscape that could be found in Great Britain or the north of France.

The amiss of the immediate recognition of their own land as the location of the film in the Italian audience can be justified by the choice made during the dubbing of the movie, where the name of the city from which Gaston escapes (saved by the Navarre knight) is translated into Aguilon, while in the original it is clearly and unequivocally Aquila.

This is a case in which a location more or less correct (the sets of the film are in fact numerous and also very far from each other) has been made misleading by the Italian translation.

Write a Reply or Comment