Clooney's Monuments Men march to Berlinale
Hot on the heels of the worldwide success of Gravity comes another George Clooney film, The Monuments Men.
This time though, the Hollywood A-lister not only stars but also produces and directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with Grant Heslov.
With the film due to receive its international premiere in Berlin as part of the 64th Berlinale (6 – 16 February), we thought it a good time to take a look at both the film and some of the locations used.
Based on a true story and the subsequent book by Robert M. Edsel (with Brett Witter), the Monuments Men centres on a World War II platoon tasked by the Allied forces to recover artistic masterpieces stolen by Nazi soldiers. However, the mission was highly dangerous, as the haul was stuck behind enemy lines with the German army posed to act upon orders to destroy everything as the Third Reich fell…
The starry cast on board includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett. The film comes from Fox 2000 and Smokehouse Pictures and opens in the US on 7 February.
Varied film locations
Shooting took place on many locations, the main production office being based at Germany’s Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam. Markus Bensch of Studio Babelsburg Motion Pictures GmbH explained a little about choosing and securing the locations used. Ottiliae mine shaft
“The location that got the ball rolling was Ottiliae mine shaft near Clausthal Zellerfeld. Clausthal has one of the few Colleges for Mining in Germany, which is what really alerted me to the site, and it didn’t disappoint.
“Although it was only used for half a day’s shooting in the end, the mine shaft was intrinsic to the shoot – once it had been confirmed, the locals in the area then pointed us to many other useful locations in the area, such as Rammelsberg, Goslar, Osterwieck and Halberstadt, which were all subsequently used in the film.
Prison in Berlin
“The prison is located in Berlin city centre. It was actually offered to me by the owner: the real estate agency of the state of Berlin. They didn't quite know what to do with an empty prison which, because it’s a listed building, can’t even be altered, so it was just as well they called me…
“Merseburg Cathedral also proved very useful – with its medieval architecture, the building can look as if it’s almost anywhere in Europe – in the case of The Monuments Men, it was used for Belgium.
“The university was supposedly in Paris, but we used Humboldt University, also in Berlin. Another Paris stand-in was the Palais am Festungsgraben, which ‘played’ the Jeu de Paume museum in in the French capital.”
In early April 2013, the film unit headed to the UK, where they set up at Longcross Studios. The filming stint in England was brief, but also took in the historic Cinque Ports town of Rye in East Sussex, nearby Camber Sands - a vast stretch of sandy beach and dunes - and Duxford in Cambridgeshire.
Expectations are high for any film presenting at the Berlinale – the cultural event is one of the key markers on the film industry calendar. And Clooney must have his fingers tightly crossed for some rave reviews, as over 3,500 journalists are due to attend with pens poised…
You can see the trailer for The Monuments Men below.
With many thanks to Markus Bensch of Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures GmbH (SBMP) for all his assistance in compiling this article. Picture rights: SBMP
For more information on filming in Germany, take a look at our country guide.