Given that I actually live in London, this isn’t one of my more “global” adventures, but certainly worth talking about nonetheless. Star Wars Identities is an exhibition that is currently in London but has been travelling around various cities around the world, with more to come. It’s just opened at The O2 in Greenwich and will be there until September 2017, so plenty of time to give it a visit.
The exhibition, unsurprisingly, is all things Star Wars-related- primarily from the first six films with a few bits from the more recent The Force Awakens. It includes costumes, props, concept art and loads of other bits which were all used in the actual films (I can’t even begin to imagine how much some of that stuff is worth!). Personal highlights were the original Darth Vader costume, the prop used for Han Solo frozen in carbonite, and the real R2D2 and C3PO.
The unique selling point of the exhibition is the “identities” element. As you go around, you have the opportunity to answer various questions and make choices interactively with an electronic wristband that you’re supplied with. You’re asked questions which help you to form your own character from the Star Wars universe, such as what species you are, where you’re from and what your skills are (btw, I picked Wookiee). At the end, you make the final decision over whether or not to succumb to the Dark Side. It’s a bit gimmicky but it was something I’d never heard of or done before, so it was certainly unique (although I would have been more than satisfied if it had just been the standard exhibition).
If you’re a Star Wars fan, this is totally worth a visit. I think it was about £25 to get in, but we spent a good hour and a half there and I felt it was worth it. People that aren’t that into the movies probably won’t have quite as much as a nerd meltdown as I did upon seeing all the original paraphernalia- while a lot of the stuff is fairly recognisable, some of the props and characters you’ll only appreciate if you know the movies really well. Just one word of advice: when you pick your name, don’t choose something embarrassing as your final character gets projected onto a huge screen at the end for everyone else to see…
For another thrilling instalment of my travels tracking film around the world, let me introduce Lone Pine Film Museum. I must admit, I stumbled across this absolute gem purely by accident when my family and I happened to be staying in the small town of Lone Pine after driving through Death Valley on our way towards Yosemite National Park. We had no idea it was there- we had a free morning and thought we might as well give it a shot. And it changed my life.
(Well not exactly, but it certainly sparked my interest in Westerns.)
Lone Pine and the surrounding wilderness has been a prime filming location for not only classic Westerns, but a number of other famous films spanning a number of genres. Walk into the entrance hall and you’ll see Dr Schultz’s carriage from the beginning of Django Unchained, parts of which were filmed nearby, and then passing through you’ll go on to exhibitions featuring a huge selection of other props, posters, costumes and more. Some examples of well-known blockbusters that were filmed in the area include Gunga Din, Iron Man, Tremors, Star Wars, Gladiator, plus a range of Westerns spanning the decades. (Incidentally, Lone Pine’s burger restaurant has an amazing collection of John Wayne memorabilia as its decor.)
So if you’re ever in the area, definitely give this museum a visit. There’ll definitely be films represented there that you’ve seen, and probably some that you would least expect. It’s not huge but full of stuff so ideal if you’ve got a spare hour or two.
Following the raging success of my German Cinema Museum post, I thought I’d share some further experiences of my forays into international travel (film-related, of course). Universal Studios in LA is a theme park of sorts actually at the studios where they film Universal movies. Before going, I was under the impression that it was just a theme park with rides based on Universal films- while there are such rides, there’s so much more to see and I learnt a lot more about how they make movies there than I thought I would.
The absolute highlight is the studio tour, which involves hopping on a small bus with open sides, with a guide who takes you around the studio lot. On the tour you can see loads of real sets used for famous movies, such as Jaws, Psycho and Jurassic World. The guide tells you anecdotes about how they filmed it, and it’s amazing to learn about how what’s in front of you is transferred to the big screen. Just keep your wits about you when you go through the Jaws set.
As I mentioned there are also quite a few rides also based on movies, such as Transformers and The Mummy, which are not white-knuckle kind of rides but for the most part are family friendly. There’s also a small museum which houses the original Delorean from Back to the Future, among other props and objects.
If you love movies this is definitely a must-see if you’re in the area. It’s not nearly as niche as the German Cinema Museum and I would be shocked if there wasn’t a film that you’ve seen represented in some way at the Studios. It’s a little pricey once you’re in there for food and things, but the ticket itself isn’t bad and is worth it for just the studio tour alone.
So now for something a little different. I recently took a lovely little city break to Berlin, during which amongst the visits to the Berlin Wall, WW2 memorial sites and various currywurst bars, I managed to get to the German Cinema Museum (or Deutsche Kinemathek Museum, to be precise). Located in Berlin’s modern Sony Centre, the museum is primarily a tribute to the pioneering German cinema of the 1920s during the Weimar Republic, a time in which Berlin was considered to be one of the world’s best metropolitan cities.
Firstly, I should note that unfortunately the museum doesn’t allow photography, hence that lack of photos. However the museum’s website gives quite a good picture of what it’s like, which you can see here.
German cinema was at the global centre of film-making during the 1920s, with iconic films such as The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1927) all coming from that period. The museum has an excellent exhibition focusing solely on Metropolis, which showcases its pioneering set design and how it kicked off the sci-fi genre. Other permanent exhibitions include the development of film technology in the early 20th century, German film stars in Hollywood (with special focus on Marlene Dietrich), and the use of propaganda film during the Nazi period.
The museum itself is easy to navigate and is informative without too much reading to do. It shows off loads of authentic exhibits, such as costumes, film cameras and original scripts. A lot of the German films that the museums looks at are quite weird and sinister, which is exactly the sort of thing that I like- however if you’re more of a rom-com or family comedy fan it might not be for you. Having (shamefully) not known much about the significance of early German cinema before going, I came away having learnt a ton and have now ordered a selection of black and white classics to expand my repertoire (watch this space for upcoming reviews). As an added bonus entry was €7, which is cheaper than a lot of other museums in Berlin.
Overall, it’s definitely worth a visit for any film aficionado, and even for those who aren’t such hardcore movie fans it makes a nice change from the other kinds of museum in the city.