The Three Musketeers | 2011
Yes, it’s daft but it knows it’s daft and, even with flying ships, is it really that much further from Alexandre Dumas than previous Hollywood ventures? OK, a bit.
What’s undeniable is that the locations are stunning, with a scale and detail that could never be matched in the studio – even if the Baroque gems are more Bavarian than French.
In fact, almost all of the location filming was in Bavaria, the southeastern state of Germany, though helicopter shots of other cities were used as the basis of CG recreations. The film begins with an aerial view of Venice, restored to its 17th century glory by technical wizardry as the musketeers steal plans for Leonardo Da Vinci’s unrealised airborne war machine (OK, that’s not strictly Dumas).
The ‘Venetian’ canals were created in the famous Babelsberg Studios at Potsdam, southwest of Berlin, but ‘Da Vinci’s Vault’, beneath which Leonardo’s blueprints are supposedly stored, can be found in the Munich Residenz (Munich Residence), Residenzstraße 1, Munich, the former royal palace of Bavarian monarchs.
The long, arched ‘vault’ is the Antiquarium, the oldest room in the Residenz, and claimed to be the largest and most lavish Renaissance interior north of the Alps. The Antiquarium was built around 1570 for Duke Albrecht V to house his collection of antique sculptures, hence the name.
The Munich Residenz is located in the centre of the city, and is open to visitors but, no, it doesn’t have a secret cellar – that’s digitally added.
The Venetian ‘safe house’, in which the musketeers celebrate their successful mission, before being double-crossed by Milady de Winter (Mila Jovovich), is the Shell Grotto of Schloss Weissenstein in Pommersfelden. Light reflected from baths of water set up outside the windows ripples across the encrustation of shells and mirrors to give the illusion that we’re in the city of canals and gondolas, rather than Pommersfelden, north of Nuremberg in Bavaria.
The 300-year-old building is also open to visit, from April to October, offering a guided tour through stately rooms and containing the largest private Baroque art collection in Germany, with over 600 pictures by the likes of Rubens, Dürer, Titian, Rembrandt and van Dyck.
Meanwhile, Dumas’ young hero D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) is leaving his home in the (Bavarian) countryside for an adventurous life with the King’s Musketeers in the city of ‘Paris’. En route, he stops at ‘Meung Sur Loire’ (which is about 70 miles southwest of Paris, near Orleans), where he first comes across the arrogant Comte de Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen).
For the film, the town of ‘Meung’ is actually filmed within the historic castle walls of Burghausen, which also supplies the bustling ‘Parisian’ streetmarket in which D'Artagnan somehow manages to bump into Athos (Matthew MacFadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans). Situated about 55 miles east of Munich in the foothills of the Alps, between the Salzach River and Wohrsee Lake, Burghausen boasts the longest castle complex in Europe, stretching over 3280 feet in length.
The ‘coopers’ yard’, in which the young Gascon rashly arranges to duel with all three musketeers, but ends up fighting alongside them to see off Rochefort and the Cardinal’s guards, is the picturesque courtyard of Alte Hofhaltung, off the Domplatz in Bamberg, about 130 miles north of Munich.
There’s little set-dressing or CGI here – this is how it looks. However, the same courtyard is digitally altered later on, to become the port of ‘Calais’ as the four head for ‘London’.
D’Artagnan is invited to stay with the Musketeers at their lodging by the Obere Brücke (Upper Bridge) and the ornate building that was once the 14th century Rathaus (town hall) of Bamberg. More camera trickery extends the modest bridge to suggest a major crossing of the ‘Seine’.
The cold and clinically white office of the machinating Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) is the Great Hall of Schloss Schleissheim, at Oberschleissheim to the northwest of Munich. Schleissheim has an earlier claim to screen fame, having supplied the exterior of the mysterious palace in Alain Resnais’ 1957 arthouse classic, Last Year In Marienbad and the vast ‘French’ chateau in Stanley Kubrick’s WWI drama Paths Of Glory, with Kirk Douglas.
The ‘Palace of the Louvre’, residence of King Louis (Freddie Fox) and Queen Anne (Juno Temple), where Richelieu expects to see the riotous musketeers punished, but is obliged to look on as the King rewards them with new suits of clothes, is the Würzburg Residenz and gardens, at the far northern tip of Bavaria, west of Bamberg.
Built between 1720 and 1780, the former residence of the Würzburg prince-bishops was heavily damaged during World War II, but has been extensively restored and re- opened in 1987. The palace is now on UNESCO's World Heritage list.
With rooms even more ostentatious than the Louvre, reproducing the ‘Palace of Versailles’, where Richelieu and Milady plot to trigger a war with England, could have proven tricky. Fortunately, Bavaria’s enthusiastically extravagant King Ludwig II had commissioned his own personal copy of the Palace’s famous Hall of Mirrors, in the Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee, part of the complex of royal buildings on the Herreninsel, an island in the Chiemsee lake, 40 miles south east of Munich.
Ludwig died in 1886 before the building was completed, but you can still visit the Mirror Gallery, almost 328 feet long and decorated with over 1,800 candles.
Several more of Herrenchiemsee’s impressive rooms and its famous French gardens were used to provide more of the scenes set at the ‘Louvre’.
To visit Herrenchiemsee, take the train to Prien am Chiemsee, on the western shore of Chiemsee, from Munich. From here, it’s less than a mile’s walk, or another short train ride (on a 19th century narrow gauge railway), to the Prien/Stock Pier which operates a regular summer boat service to Herreninsel.
Like the view of Venice which opens the film, a bird’s eye shot of the real ‘Tower of London’ is digitally altered to remove modern additions and restore the look of 17th century London. Although the attack on the Tower’s rooms is filmed on a studio set, the exterior stone walls are back at Würzburg.
The climax, atop the cathedral of ‘Notre Dame’, is a mix of sets and visual effects, though the real life model used to generate a virtual duplicate of the Parisian landmark was actually Reims Cathedral in northern France.