London: On the Movie Trail

Posted on May 15, 2006

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by anglofille

If you’re looking for a sightseeing escapade in London (and who isn’t?), visit the Film London website and download a movie map. Skip the hordes at the Tate and head over to Borough Market, where I guarantee you’ll be the only person snapping a photo of Bridget Jones’s flat. While this is nothing you should admit doing, not even under the threat of torture, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon. Really, there are.

You can download a variety of maps that highlight movie locations throughout London, which will allow you to retrace the steps of characters in films from Love Actually to Match Point. (And whatever you think of Woody Allen’s creepy retread, London looks fab in the film).

I recently undertook my own Hollywood-in-London adventure. I’m a fan of the movie Closer, which is based upon the play by Patrick Marber. The obscure Postman’s Park (tucked away between buildings near St. Paul’s Cathedral) plays a key role in both the play and the film. What makes the park worth visiting is a memorial honouring Londoners who died saving the lives of other people. There are plaques, some designed by Royal Doulton and nearly all dating back to the 19th-century, that tell the stories of ordinary people with extraordinary courage. Reads one plaque: “Richard Farris, labourer, was drowned in attempting to save a girl who had thrown herself into the canal at Globe Bridge Peckham, May 20, 1878.” There is a whole wall of these plaques.

The 19th-century artist G.F. Watts created the memorial. He originally proposed such a project in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. He felt there were plenty of memorials marking major tragedies and famous heroes and wanted to honour regular folks. No one took him up on the idea so he financed it himself.

I wanted to visit the park because I had seen it in the movie. I wasn’t expecting my visit to be such a moving experience. As Marber wrote in an essay on the park, the plaques are “strangely poignant in their verbal formality.” He adds: “There’s nothing else quite like it in London.” I agree.

Postman’s Park is located on King Edward Street, EC1. The Closer movie map is available at Film London.