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Thursday July 18th 2024

Beauty And The Beast | 2017

Like the 1991 animation, Bill Condon’s live-action version is set in 18th century France and re-tells the familiar story of Belle (Emma Watson), held captive by by Beast in his grand castle, discovering that if you don’t judge people by their appearance, they may turn out into Dan Stevens.

The production was shot almost entirely on impressively elaborate sets built at Shepperton Studios, southwest of London in Surrey, following the look of the earlier film.

There were a couple of weeks of filming countryside exteriors, at Ivinghoe Beacon on the Ashridge Estate in Buckinghamshire, and at Winterfold Forest and Hurtwood, in the Surrey Hills near the village of Shere, which is where the tree is struck by lightning, forcing Belle’s father to steer towards the Beast’s castle.

The design of the sets was influenced by several sites throughout Europe.

The faux-marble floor of the Ballroom, one of the biggest sets, was inspired by – of all things – the magnificent ceiling of the Braunau in Rohr Abbey, Abt-Dominik-Prokop-Platz 1, 93352 Rohr in Niederbayern, a Benedictine monastery in Bavaria, Germany.

Its ten chandeliers are modelled on those in the Palace of Versailles, France.

Movie buffs might detect that Belle’s bedroom is reminiscent of the dreamy interiors of Alain Resnais’ 1957 L’Année Dernière a Marienbad (Last Year In Marienbad). And indeed the design is based on the Hall of Mirrors in Schloss Nymphenburg, near Munich, Germany, one of the lushly Baroque interiors used in the arthouse classic.

The Beast’s library is based on the 18th Century Joanina Library (Biblioteca Joanina) in the University of Coimbra, Portugal, built in the reign of the King John V.

The forest surrounding the Beast’s castle was built on Shepperton’s largest stage, incorporating real trees and hedges. Belle’s fictional village of ‘Villeneuve’ was constructed on the exterior back lot, with photographic plates shot around south-west France to provide background extensions. The closest place in real life to 'Villeneuve' is the village of Conques in the Aveyron department, about 100 miles northeast of Toulouse.

It’s to Germany again, though, to find the original of the fountain in the main square, which is based on one in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria. Rothenburg, economically devastated by the Thirty Years War and away from major commercial routes, has never been modernised. This has turned out to be a boon and the town is now a tourist trap.

A perfectly preserved 17th century wonder, it’s about 45 miles west of Nuremberg toward Stuttgart, and it provided the town square where creepy Childcatcher (Robert Helpmann) searches for kiddies in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well a being briefly glimpsed in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part I.