There is no Oscar for the best setting or location. But there should be. A location forms part of the history and the legend behind many famous films. Sometimes they are just as an integral part of the film as the cast of actors. Some of the films that have won an Academy Award are prime examples of this.
The landscapes of Kenya are the backdrop to the love story between Meryl Streep and Robert Redford that Sidney Pollack directed in ‘Out of Africa’ (1985). Shooting in the same house where the writer Isak Dinesen lived, who was the protagonist of the story, also helped to make the film memorable. Another film partially set in Africa, ‘The English Patient’ (1996), begins with the beautiful images of dunes filmed in the Tunisian Sahara. In addition, the scenes featuring the countryside and Renaissance churches filmed in Pienza, Montepulciano and Versilia further exhibited the rural beauty of Tuscany, one of film’s favourite destinations.
Woody Allen’s films wouldn’t be the same without New York.
The dunes of the Jordanian desert were chosen for Peter O’Toole’s camel rides in his majestic portrayal of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1962). To recreate the beautiful interior splendour of Arabic palaces, the director David Lean used several locations in Seville (Spain).
If African landscapes have starred in great, legendary films, one of the most spectacular sagas in recent years, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is undoubtedly indebted to the snow-topped mountains and green valleys of New Zealand. The director Peter Jackson knew the country well, as he was born there.
When fiction recreates true stories, filming in the locations where the events actually happened guarantees credibility and success. Not to mention avoiding problems with the production. However, it’s not always so easy. Fortunately for Bernardo Bertolucci, the Chinese authorities gave him permission to film ‘The Last Emperor’ (1987) in the imperial palaces of the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Like ‘The Last Emperor’, ‘Braveheart’ (1995) won the Oscar for Best Picture. Its director and star Mel Gibson decided to shoot William Wallace’s fight for Scotland’s independence in the impressive natural settings of Glencoe and Glen Nevis, in the Scottish Highlands where the protagonist fought and died. Another epic film shot in natural settings is ‘Dances with Wolves’ (1990). Kevin Costner filmed this story of friendship between a soldier and the Indians in the steppe grasslands of South Dakota, where there are still large colonies of American bisons.
Urban settings have also played an important role in many films. Woody Allen’s films wouldn’t be the same without New York. ‘Annie Hall’ (1978) is one of his films that best portrays the city. Although he won his first two Oscars as director and screenwriter, it would be Paris that would lead him to another Oscar many years later. ‘Midnight in Paris’ (2011) is one of the many films inspired by the capital of France, which is surely one of the most cinematographic cities in the world. However, in this respect Rome is second to none. With a title like ‘Roman Holiday’ (1953), the film starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck already had the Oscar in the bag in the hearts of many filmgoers.