9 scenic films that are the perfect escape
From the quaint streets of Crema to the jungles of Mexico, you can go on holiday without ever leaving your couch.
Still from "Call Me By Your Name".
Feeling cooped up under COVID-19 shelter in place orders? Films have the ability to transport us across the world and through time all from the comfort of our own home. Put on your comfiest clothes, grab your favorite movie snack and cuddle up on your couch -- or in your bed, there are no rules here -- and explore the natural beauty of the world from serenely rural 19th Century Vietnam to the vibrant lushness of a summer in northern Italy in the 80s.
Autumn de Wilde’s reimagining of Jane Austin’s classic novel is perfect for those who enjoy long picturesque strolls to lavish English estates. The impressive decor and architecture are presented alongside a Neopolitan-ice cream color palette. The Georgian mansion, Firle Park serves as Hartfield perfectly transformed by a smattering of period-appropriate redecoration. The exterior is just as beautiful with two courtyards and a view of Sussex’s South Downs National Park’s rolling hills. You might recognize some of the interiors of Mr. Knightley’s grandiose Donwell Abbey from Netflix’s The Crown or Pride & Prejudice (2005). The location scouts feared it was almost too beautiful with its 22 acres and startlingly magnificent art collection. No matter the location, each shot in Emma is either full of impressive English greenery or opulent interiors perfect for a visual escape.
The Third Wife
Set in rural 19th century Vietnam, Ash Mayfair’s directorial debut tells a story of female oppression and resilience among vibrant portraits of leafy mountainsides and misty rivers. The film is a meditative one, and relatively short on words. It breaks up the painful reality of May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My) the 14-year-old third wife of a farmer, by escaping to nature -- showing close-up Planet Earth-like shots of silkworms wriggling themselves into existence, dobs of dew clinging to verdant leaves and women bathing each other in shallow falls. The grounds of the estate are modest, yet beautiful in their simplicity. In this languid and sorrowful coming of age story, towering bamboo forests become an escape from the confines of an unhappy home.
While this may not exactly be a calming movie to watch, there is no arguing that Ari Aster’s newest horror film is easy on the eyes. Midsommar may be set in Sweden, but it was actually shot on the outskirts of Budapest. The decision to film in another country was a logistical one; nevertheless, the picturesque landscape is vivid and bright. To make up for the change in location, the team built an entire Swedish village from scratch. Buildings full of eerily beautiful murals help transport you to a time and place that -- while it may not exist in real life -- feels tangible. Immerse yourself in the beauty of long days, dresses (and crowns) made of flowers, and rolling green hills, but be prepared for some horror to disrupt this peaceful landscape.
Call Me By Your Name
Celebrate the news that Timothée Chalamet and Army Hammer have agreed to be in the sequel by watching (or rewatching) this Academy Award-winning film, which showcases scenery that rivals the beauty of its breakout star. Northern Italy becomes the third main character with the stunning aerial shots of Elio biking around the countryside to the timeless streets of Crema. Call Me By Your Name is vibrant in its depiction of an Italian summer -- each color reaching out through the screen. Even the villa the Perlmans live in every summer is a sight to behold. Follow along as Elio, Oliver, and Mr. Perlman wander through Grotti di Catulla, the remains of a Roman villa located at the tip of the Sirmione peninsula. Watch as Elio swims in the ornate pool there, in the picturesque waters of Laghetto dei Riflessi, the crystal blue waves of Jamaica Beach and the knee-deep waters in his and Oliver’s secret place, Fontanile Quarantina. You can even pretend you are hiking alongside the pair to the top of Cascata delle Marmore, which despite its natural surroundings was actually built by ancient Romans in 271 BCE.
I Dream in Another Language
Travel to a rural jungle village in Mexico’s Veracruz province in Ernesto Contreras’s fourth film. It follows a young linguist searching for the last speakers of a dying language who happen to be two old friends that no longer speak to each other. The backdrop shifts back and forth from the lush overgrown jungle, where a speaker of the dying language demonstrates its power to communicate with the natural world, and the beach that sits on its edge. Some scenes of the village are shot from within the vines, making you feel like you are watching from within the jungle. The focus shifts to the verdant almost mystical landscape in the scenes where the speaker seems to be communicating with the inhabitants of the jungle. Flashbacks show the pair of old friends in their youth, in a way that’s soft and ethereal with crystal clear waves crashing onto pristine sand.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s french classic is part romantic comedy part tour of Paris, checking off a hefty portion of the city’s main attractions in just two hours. The surrealist film is set in the 70s and starts off with a noted Paris monument, the Notre-Dame. It goes on to show Canal Saint-Martin, Gare Du Nord and even the oldest traditional carnival in Paris, the Foire du Trône funfair. Amelie (Audrey Tautou) walks the streets of the historic district of Montmartre every day to get to work at the Café des 2 Moulins, which is still a real restaurant. Many of the shops she passes regularly are still open as well. In one scene, she has a rendez-vous with Nino, the boy she likes, at the bottom of Montmarte’s hill and sets up a treasure hunt for him to climb all 222 steps up to Sacré-Cœur.
Grand Budapest Hotel
Follow the adventure of hotel concierge M. Gustav H. (Ralph Fiennes) and enjoy the luxury of an opulent eastern European hotel. The film transports you in both location and time -- showcasing the way people used to visit grand hotels as long as six weeks at a time in the 20s and 30s. The Republic of Zubrowka may not be a real place, but Wes Anderson set out to bring the fictitious country to life through carefully curated locations and a mirroring of the area’s troubled history of the time period. The backdrop for the film’s namesake, The Grand Budapest Hotel, was actually an abandoned Art Nouveau department store in Görlitz, Germany called the Görlitzer Warenhaus. They created two separate sets for the hotel lobby to correspond with the two timelines -- it’s heyday in the 20s and 30s and it’s declining period in the 60s. The exterior of Mendl’s bakery, where Agathe (Saoirse Ronan) makes her immaculate pastries, is an actual storefront in Görlitz, while the interior was filmed at a Pfund Molkerei, a 19th-century creamery in Dresden. While the snowy mountaintop scenes are filmed using miniature models, it is based on the Sphinx Observatory in Switzerland.
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Alfonso Cuarón’s arthouse take on a teen road trip movie features two 17-year-old boys and a married woman. It starts in Mexico City in the 50s -- showing pieces of the city as Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) wander through their summer in the absence of their girlfriends. They meet their road trip companion Luisa (Maribel Verdú) at an opulent family wedding. The story really takes off as the three set off on their adventure southeast through Oaxaca. The road trip winds through rural Mexico giving a panoramic view of the changes from the city to the country. There are a few unplanned stops along the way before they make it to their destination, Boca del Cielo or Heaven’s Mouth. The beach where the movie is shot, Cacaluta, is one of the nine secluded beaches in the resort village of Bahias de Huatulco. The three go dancing drunkenly at a bar on San Agustin beach.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Going back to Italy, but this time we explore the coast of Naples, the streets of Rome and even Venice in the 60s. With the exception of the opening scenes, which were shot in New York City, the entire film was shot on location in Italy. The first section of the film follows Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) as he tries to get Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) to return back home to New York. They wander through the streets of Positano and other small villages on the islands of Ischia and Procida and occasionally take to the water -- lounging on a sailboat with southern Italy as a backdrop. Palazzo Malcovati, Dickie’s stunning villa that he shares with Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), is on Ischia Ponte’s main street with the terrace viewable from below. In Rome, Tom visits the ruins of the Forum from Capitoline Hill and though the “Dinelli” terrace cafe does not exist, the Spanish Steps are showcased in all of their glory. The canals of Venice are toured about lightly, but the “Venetian” chapel that is shown in the film is actually the Chiesa della Martorana, located in Palermo, Sicily.