Location – it may not be everything, but it surely counts for something when it comes to film. Location is key, especially when the setting of a movie is its own important, influential character.
It’s hard to say whether any more attention is being paid to where a film is shot than in the past; it’s always been vital, but influenced by money and practicality. The efforts, however, are certainly more noticeable, as scale and scope offer something visually remarkable when witnessed on the big screen. Many directors are partial to reality as opposed to something computer generated, and the green screen takes an occasional back seat to heading out in the wild. The result is sometimes monomaniacal directors putting actors in difficult situations: frigid waters (James Cameron, Titanic), the lawless jungle (Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now), or a fetid cabin (Sam Raimi, The Evil Dead), for example, in order to elicit real emotion and reaction.
A curious thing happens once in a while, however, and it seems to be more prominent of late. Directors, and in turn audiences, want realism, but not actual realism. They want perceived realism; that is to say, we all want to see on the screen what we think a place actually looks like, and not the place itself. When it comes to vistas and expanses and nature (we’re not talking about one metropolis filling in for another), we want picturesque facsimiles – the best possible versions on screen of the real life places where these stories take place.
Let’s take a closer look at some films, new and old, whose settings are pivotal to the story and make for memorable backdrops, but aren’t exactly the places they’re meant to be.
Mad Max: Fury Road
In addition to being an adrenaline-pumping, hellish adventure there and back again, complete with a powerful female heroine who is more noteworthy than the title character, Mad Max: Fury Road features incredible scenery. The desolate landscape and sandy dunes that make up the world of Max Rockatansky are ingrained within the storytelling, but it certainly wasn’t easy to get what was needed.
The fourth film in the series was not shot in Australia like its predecessors, where this not-too-distant future apocalyptic world is set. That’s because a rare rainy season turned the landscape lush, forcing relocation. Instead it’s the dessert of Namibia, teeming with cracked bedrock and windswept red sand dunes, that stands in for a dystopian Australia outback.
While set along the Mississippi River almost 200 years ago, director Alejandro Iñárritu, in all his meticulous nature, traversed the Americas to find the most picturesque location for every scene. Surely the