In the Footsteps of the Movies

Walking in familiar locations.

Posted by Mark Armstrong 22nd August 2016

Last week I watched a film called the Duellists for the first time. Set in the Napoleonic era it tells the story of 2 men's dueling exploits and is based on a book by Joseph Conrad which was in turn based on historical events. It was only having watched the film, I was interested in checking on the location of the filming, particularly the castle at the film's conclusion. It turned out to be Chateau de Commarque, 10 miles north west of Sarlat and much was filmed around the medieval village of Sarlat la Canada in the Dordogne. The beautiful town of Sarlat is famous for its medieval buildings and its lively street market. Sarlat has remained preserved from modern development and is considered to be one of the towns most representative of 14th century France. The Dordogne has an impressive concentration of chateaux lining the valley, including Fenelon, Beynac, Castlenaud and Marqueyssac. Sarlat can be visited both on our independent walking holiday Delights of Dordogne and our self guided cycling tour Classic Dordogne Cycling.

The Duellists (1977) was Sir Ridley Scott's first feature film following several years working on commercials. He would later come to the fore as a film director with Alien and Blade Runner. It was in 1973 though that he made a notable Hovis advert, "Bike Round", set in the north of England but filmed on Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset. A nostalgia themed television advertisement that captured the public imagination, voted the UK's all-time favourite commercial in a 2006 poll. Gold Hill also featured in John Schlesinger's 1967 film of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. This should come as no surprise to people that know about Thomas Hardy as the bulk of his fictional works were set in the semi-fictional county of Wessex (based on the Dorchester region where he grew up) and explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances. Shaftesbury (as Shaston) is one of the main locations in his book Jude the Obscure. Our independent walking holiday Wonders of Wessex Walk which meanders across the heart of Wessex starts at the historic cathedral city of Salisbury in Wiltshire and finishes its journey at Shaftesbury.

Our West Mendip Explorer walking holiday in Somerset takes the West Mendip Way route into the city of Wells, England's smallest city, through Wells Blue School, which was one of the countries first free schools founded in 1641. In 2016 the school put up a blue plaque in honour of former pupil and film director Edgar Wright. In 2006 Edgar Wright came back to his hometown to film Hot Fuzz, a film which follows two police officers attempting to solve a series of mysterious deaths in Sandford, a fictional small English village. Wells Cathedral had to be digitally removed from scenes, as St Cuthbert's Church became one of the central locations for the fictional town. The Bishop's Palace is identifiable in some scenes, whilst much of the action takes place in the Market Place with the Swan Hotel and The Crown at Wells featuring. All internal shots of the Somerfield supermarket, the Swan Hotel and The Crown though were filmed elsewhere. Other TV programmes and films have been shot in Wells, including some filming inside the cathedral for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. As recently as 2015, filming took place in the cathedral and Bishop's Palace for the film Huntsman: Winter's War.

Since Ridley Scott filmed the Duellists, the Chateau de Commarque has had restoration work on it and since 2006, when Hot Fuzz was filmed, the Somerfield supermarket has closed and many other shops in Well's High Street have changed. Nothing stays the same, but it does mean you can sometimes take a dip into the past from the comfort of your armchair or alternatively you can explore the present on a self guided walking holiday.


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