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FILMS

On location: 12 famous movies filmed in Switzerland

To mark the news that Switzerland's 'James Bond mountain', the Schilthorn, is set for a new cable car link, The Local takes a look at some famous films in which Switzerland has played a starring role.

On location: 12 famous movies filmed in Switzerland
Photo: Handout/AFP
Point Break (2015)
 
 
The classic 1991 Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves film was about surfing, but the recent remake expanded its daredevil plot line to other extreme sports. One of its most impressive stunts was a wingsuit-flying sequence filmed above the Walensee in eastern Switzerland. The above video gives you an idea of what it's like to basejump in that area – it was shot by Jeb Corliss, who worked on the film
 

Youth (2015)

While Switzerland tends to be used as a backdrop for high-octane action films or suspense-filled international thrillers (as this list proves), Italian director Paul Sorrentino chose the wild canton of Graubünden for his film Youth – a meditation on the passing of time. Starring Michael Caine and Jane Fonda it also features stunning locations including the Waldhaus Flims hotel in Flims and the Berghotel Schatzalp in Davos, while mountains and flower-strewn fields are also a constant presence.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
 
 
The Hollywood version of Stieg Larsson’s novel had some scenes filmed in Zurich, where Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander carries out her multimillion dollar banking transactions and stays in the ultra-posh 170m2 Masina suite at the Dolder Grand Hotel, named Switzerland's best in 2015.
 
Angels and Demons (2009)
 
Stars Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer with director Ron Howard at Cern. Photo: Cern
 
In this adaptation of the Dan Brown novel Tom Hanks’ character Robert Langdon comes to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Geneva after it’s discovered that the Illuminati have stolen antimatter from a secret laboratory there. In a press release at the time Cern said participating in the film was an “opportunity to show how exciting the reality of antimatter research is”. 
 
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
 
Beautiful Grindelwald became the otherworldly Alderaan. Photo: Caroline Bishop
 
In the film it’s Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan (later famously destroyed), but in real life it’s actually the mountains around Grindelwald in the Bernese Oberland's Jungfrau region. Digitally enhanced footage of the area was used as a backdrop to various scenes in the film.
 
Syriana (2005)
 

In this political thriller Matt Damon (he'll make another appearance lower down) plays an energy analyst in Geneva, and several scenes were shot around the city's lakeside including at the Jardin Anglais and at the Hotel President Wilson, which is said, with its Royal Penthouse Suite, to have the most expensive hotel room in the world at 80,000 Swiss francs a night.
 
 
Touching the Void (2003)
 
Though a true story of a climbing accident in the Peruvian Andes, much of this film was actually shot in Switzerland, in the very photogenic Jungfrau region. The story itself, based on the non-fiction book by mountaineer Joe Simpson is terrifying and inspiring in equal measure.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

The first instalment of the long-running and highly-respected Bourne franchise begins with super agent Jason Bourne (played with typical low-key intensity by Matt Damon) trying to piece together his identity after losing his memory. In a classic example of espionage scene-setting, Bourne arrives in Zurich to open a safety deposit box in a bank security vault, but not before he is stopped by some zealous Zurich police with accents of varying levels of credibility. To his surprise, he discovers mid-way through being questioned by police that he can actually speak German.

Goldeneye (1995)
 
The producers of the James Bond series have long been fans of Swiss landscapes which match 007 story lines for drama. In one of the most dramatic opening sequences of any Bond film, Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as Bond sees the British agent jumping off an immense dam in Russia. The scene was actually filmed at the Contra dam in the Vezasca Valley in the canton of Ticino. Daredevil fans can make the leap off the 220m dam themselves as it’s now the site of a bungee jump. 
 
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
 
 
Roger Moore's Bond was supposedly in Austria in the opening sequence of this film when he is chased on skis by Russian agents. But it was actually shot on the slopes around St Moritz – apart from the part of the final scene when he skies off a cliff and opens a parachute, which was filmed in Canada.
 
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
 
Blofeld's 'allergy clinic' is now a tourist attraction. Photo: Jungfrau region
 
George Lazenby’s only outing as Bond sees 007 tracking Blofeld to his lair in the Swiss mountains on a peak called Piz Gloria. It was actually filmed on the Schilthorn mountain in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland, where Blofeld’s ‘allergy clinic’ is now a revolving restaurant that has kept the Piz Gloria name and capitalizes on its Bond fame. Visitors can see an interactive Bond exhibition, watch clips from the film in a mountaintop cinema and pass by messages and handprints from the film’s stars on a 007 Walk of Fame. 
 
The restaurant is now set to get a new, high-speed cable car link, as The Local reported recently.
 
Goldfinger (1964)
 
 
In this film Sean Connery’s Bond heads to the stunning Furka pass in Switzerland in pursuit of the eponymous villain, where his souped up Aston Martin turns out to have all sorts of useful gadgets. Petrolhead Bond fans now enjoy recreating his journey past the Hotel Belvedere, which appeared in the film.
 
 
 
A version of this article previously appeared in The Local in 2017.
 
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CHRISTMAS

The Christmas movie that became Switzerland’s most-watched film ever

From humble beginnings and a small production budget, "Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel" has become the seminal Christmas film across much of Europe - including Switzerland.

The Christmas movie that became Switzerland's most-watched film ever
Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel. Image: Wikicommons

Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel – otherwise known in English as Three Wishes/Gifts For Cinderella (or Three Hazelnuts For Cinderella in a direct translation) – is a fairytale film originally produced in 1973 which has gone on to become a Christmas staple across much of Europe. 

The film, a co-production between Czechoslovakian and East German production companies, is watched during the festive season in much of central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia – and of course Switzerland.

A study completed by Swiss daily Watson in tandem with national broadcaster Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) showed that the movie is the most watched in Swiss history, finishing ahead of other favourites of the Swiss. The top five is rounded out by three James Bond films and 1998’s The Horse Whisperer. 

Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel is shown once per year in the Christmas period. This year, SRF will show the movie for a 26th time on December 22nd at 3:55pm. In neighbouring Germany, the film was screened 12 times from December 24th to 28th in 2018, a pattern which is pretty much repeated every year.

The Christmas classic which isn’t a Christmas film at all

The plot of the movie has all of the staples you’d come to expect from a European fairytale, including a beautiful yet poorly treated servant girl who may *spoiler alert* become princess, an evil stepmother, a handsome prince looking to be wed, an ugly sister, magic hazelnuts which grant wishes, a lost slipper – and an assortment of forest creatures with our heroine’s best wishes at heart.

Indeed, despite being a Christmas classic – the movie isn’t really a Christmas film at all, in that it doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of a traditional Christmas film. 

The movie was originally set during summer, but was later moved by the director to winter as the film crew had plenty of work in the summer. 

As it wasn’t cold enough at all of the shooting locations to guarantee snow, much of it was artificial – with fishmeal the most commonly used substitute, which led to some notoriously bad odours on set.

The movie was made against a backdrop of controversy, with screenwriter Frantisek Pavlicek – who adapted the movie from original Brothers Grimm tales – suffering under a ban from the Czech government when the movie was made and credited under a pseudonym. 

Although the film may seem a tad outdated by modern standards in its depictions of a beautiful woman waiting for her prince, at the time in Eastern Europe it was seen as revolutionary, particularly as she actively contributes to the ending of the movie – not least by stealing and taming the prince’s horse.

Legacy 

Shot in both East Germany and Prague, the film premiered in East Berlin in 1973. 

Much like how Dinner For One has become a television fixture in German-speaking Europe on New Year’s Eve, Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel is now synonymous with Christmas across much of the continent. 

Despite being screened in both the United Kingdom and the United States – on the BBC and CBS respectively – the film has failed to gain a similar foothold in the English-speaking world.

Finally, for anyone who’s already met their Cinderella or their handsome prince, the castle which is the centrepiece of the film – the Moritzburg Castle near Dresden – can be rented for weddings and parties. 

You’re recommended to get in early however, as you’ll be competing with an entire generation of children hoping that they can live happily ever after, just like their on-screen heroes. 

This story was originally published on the Local Switzerland on December 22nd, 2019.

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