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Ten must-see World War I movie locations

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Paths to Glory (Stanley Kubrik, 1957)

Schleissheim Castle

Oberschleißheim 85764 Oberschleißheim, Germany

A large part of Stanley Kubrik’s film was shot in this beautiful building in Upper Bavaria, whose construction began in 1616. The feature film is based on historical events that took place during the First World War, notably the affair of the Corporals de Souain where Réveillac, a general, had his own men shot because they would not come out of their trenches. Les sentiers de la gloire won the Chevalier de la Barre award at the Cannes Film Festival and influenced many other directors, including Jean-Pierre Jeunet for Un long dimanche de fiançailles and Christian Carion for Joyeux Noël.

A long engagement Sunday (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2004)

Musée d’Orsay

1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris

In order to obtain additional information concerning the disappearance of Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), Mathilde calls Günther’s sister (Elina Löwensohn), the German killed in the trenches, from the Orsay train station. Today it houses a museum devoted to Western art from 1848 to 1914. The film crew was able to move in one day when the facility was closed to the public. In reality, the Orsay station has never hosted steam trains as imposing as those seen in the film, but only small ones to transit to the Austerlitz station.

La grande illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)

Barracks Quartier Walter in Colmar

2 rue des Belges, 68000 Colmar

In addition to Neuf-Brisach or the Castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg, outdoor scenes from the film were shot in this place housing the 152nd infantry regiment. Nicknamed “the Red Devils Regiment” by the Germans in 1915, it was founded in 1794. Jean Renoir had a great deal of difficulty financing his feature film. He found a producer thanks to Jean Gabin, the lieutenant Maréchal in the film. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda of the Third Reich, censored it and sought to destroy all its copies. The grand illusion was therefore banned in Germany, but also in France from 1 October 1940, in particular because of its peaceful spirit and its desire for fraternisation between peoples. Fortunately, copies were saved. It’s a great opportunity for the cinema.

In the West nothing new (Lewis Milestone, 1930)

Malibu Lake

California 91301, USA

Oscar for best film and best director in 1930, A l’ouest rien de nouveau was partly shot at Universal Studios and RKO Pathé Studio, both located in California. In this western state of the United States, other scenes were filmed in the Sherwood Forest, Irvine Ranch in Laguna Beach, Balboa in Newport Beach and Lake Malibu. This artificial park was created in 1922 during the construction of a dam. Like The Great Illusion, the feature film was banned in Germany a week after its release on December 11, 1930 by the Film-Oberprüfstelle, the censorship committee headed by Goebbels.

The Great War (Mario Monicelli, 1959)

Forte di Landro

39034 Dobbiaco, Bolzano, Italy

Built in 1880 to protect the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Fort di Landro was the setting for the film The Great War, about the lives of Oreste (Alberto Sordi) and Giovanni (Vittorio Gassman), two soldiers, on the Italian-Austrian front. The fortress was used as a military hospital in the film Farewell to Arms directed by Charles Vidor. The red cross painted on its facade on that occasion is still visible today. Mario Monicelli’s feature film was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1959.

Goodbye up there (Albert Dupontel, 2017)

Hotel Fortuny

9 rue Fortuny, 75017 Paris, France

Among the few Parisian locations for this feature film is the Hotel Fortuny, mainly used for interior scenes. Built in 1891, this building was first used as a dwelling place, then as a school of haute couture and aesthetics and finally as a film location for Albert Dupontel’s production company. Apart from Au revoir up there, he also shot 9 months out of business. Au-revoir là-haut is an adaptation of Pierre Lemaître’s eponymous novel, winner of the Prix Goncourt in 2013. The director met with him twice to discuss the outcome of the story after having written 13 versions of the script for his film.

Captain Conan (Bertrand Tavernier, 1996)

Carul Cu Bere

Strada Stavropoleos 5, București 030081, Romania

Adapted from the eponymous novel by Roger Vercel, Captain Conan follows in the footsteps of this officer whose role was held by Philippe Torreton on the Balkan front. One of the scenes in the film was shot in this bar-restaurant in the Lipscani district of Bucharest. It was built in neo-gothic style according to the plans of Siegfried Kofczinsky in 1899. The Art Deco interior was used as the set for Bertrand Tavernier’s feature film. He was awarded the Méliès Prize the year of its release, and was also awarded two Césars, for best director and best actor.

Les Gardiennes (Xavier Beauvois, 2017)

Verneuil-sur-Vienne train station

Merry Christmas (Christian Carrion, 2005)

Brias Castle

Rue du Château, 62130 Brias

This beautiful 18th century castle was the headquarters of Marshal Foch during the Battle of Artois. It was therefore logical for the French director to use it in his feature film. Presented in the official selection out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival the year of its release, it stages the fraternization of French and German soldiers on Christmas Day around a game of football. This suspended moment, like a truce, was discovered by Christian Carion in the book by the historian Yves Buffetaut, Battles of Flanders and Artois 1914-1918. Nevertheless, the French army refused to lend its land for filming because it did not want to relate this military taboo. For more coherence, in the film, each side speaks its own language. While the French speak French, the Scots communicate in English and the Germans in Goethe’s language.

Fort Saganne (Alain Corneau, 1984)

Ruins of Fort Saganne

Adrar Desert, Mauritania

In the film directed by Alain Corneau, the viewer discovers the story of officer Charles Saganne (Gérard Depardieu) and his troops fighting the rebellious tribes of the Sahara in 1911. The technical teams created this fortress setting from scratch on the Chinguetti track, not far from the Amogjar pass. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns tourists as the area is not very safe. A mini-series for France 2 was declined from the film, decorated with unpublished scenes.

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By Anthony Thibault

Friday, November 8, 2019

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