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Propping oneself in front of the television may seem like the antithesis of an adventure, but there’s nothing like a film well-made to inspire our next bout of travel, writes Author, Food and Travel writer, Kate Gibbs.
Taking us around Australia to India, Africa to Spain, these six films will inspire your wanderlust.
1. Australia (2008)
It may not have been the blockbuster director Baz Luhrmann was expecting, but there is something about dewy Nicole Kidman and dusty Hugh Jackman galloping around the glowing Australian outback in jodhpurs and immaculate white shirts that inspires a trip up north.
The film captures the humour of the Australian outback as well as its beauty. Travellers can embrace the cattle driving, adventurous spirit as well as its stunning red-dirt beauty, and hopefully without the fear of a drunken accountant, Japanese planes, and threat of war.
While the film inspires us to head to northern Australia, including Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory, the real thing presents more extraordinary flora and fauna, as well as characters with a little more depth to them, and fewer stereotypes.
2. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2014)
This bittersweet comedy about English retirees in India takes us to a dilapidated hotel in Jaipur, and the colour alone is enough to draw us to the teeming destination.
While the spread of Downton Abbey types and melancholy widows, the quarrelsome couple and fast-talking host may not have us looking for a replica of the veritable retirement home they call The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, there’s enough in this stereotyped film to allure.
It’s a shabby, chaotic place, but so is India. And where the British seniors have made the move to this place in a bid to spend their twilight years in the retirement place where their meagre pensions will go further, it’s a reminder of just how far our dollar will go there as well.
Jaipur is presented from the perspective of wide-eyed western tourists, and the bright colours, dense crowds, the boys who call men “uncle” and play makeshift cricket on demolition sites - it’s all true.
Judi Dench’s character calls India “an assault on the senses” in the film and she’s right. Major themes of India – the poverty, the caste system, arranged marriages – are touched on as well.
It may be fiction, but somehow this sweet film gives more insight into the country than any pamphlet will.
3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2009)
This Woody Allen film is so bathed in a golden and honeyed light you might be tempted to pack your bags for Spain before it ends. It’s a rueful comedy about two young American women who make a summertime European idyll to savour the local delicacies surrounding the arts, music, culture and sex.
The movie presents Scarlett Johansson as Cristina and Rebecca Hall as Vicky, and Javier Bardem slinks into the film as local painter, Juan Antonio. His main vocation is mixing up the hearts of the women in the film.
But it’s Barcelona that the film is in love with. The gnarled Gaudi buildings, the countryside of Oviedo, the stunning earth tones and leaves mottling the world with shadow and light; it’s summertime Barcelona in its element.
The film was shot on location, moving into Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s World Heritage-listed Casa Mila and Oviedo. Each destination should be on the checklist of any traveller to Barcelona, but so – as the film suggests – so should candlelit dinners picnics in Park Guell and visits to artists’ studios, whether or not one intends to meet a Juan Antonio character.
4. Lost in Translation (2003)
An ageing actor (Bill Murray) and a neglected young wife (Scarlett Johansson) make an unlikely pair in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, set in the bustling, maddening, and so foreign to our heroes, Tokyo.
Together they bust out of their hotels to explore the vibrant city, and so can we. The duo finds freedom in an unknown place, reminding us how travel can release our fears and hang-ups.
They wander the streets of Shinjuku and find joy in a Tokyo karaoke bar, they are alienated, unsettled and found under neon signs and Tokyo’s clamorous high-rise strangeness. Johansson’s character is experiencing panic about her own life and in Tokyo, with Murray she has a big, unexpected adventure.
“Let’s not ever come back here,” says Johansson to him. “Because it’ll never be as much fun again.” And so we must go for them, to experience that same hilarious weirdness, poetry and shock that is Tokyo.
5. Sex and the City 2 (2010)
The second instalment of Sex and the City could have been a brochure for Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, yet only the savviest travellers knew it was actually filmed in Marrakech, Morocco.
And so while the world’s most fashionable foursome, Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda set up a picnic of dates, macarons and Champagne in the dunes, or balanced besides the humps of camels in the desert, we should be setting our itinerary around Morocco.
The stunning clothes are the main catch of the film, and they’re inspiration enough to head to the markets of Fez, pick up colourful rugs in Marrakech, and dress up for the stunning hotels and resorts the country has to offer.
6. Hideous Kinky (1998)
Kate Winslet, a Londoner determined to find herself, takes her daughters to Marrakech in 1972. The gritty film has the threesome navigate local politics, culture and practicalities. Winslet wants her daughters to grow up in a world away from sterile England where she thinks they’d be propped in front of the television with babysitters.
We want to go with her, to a world where life is more difficult but also more interesting. But it becomes obvious the paradise might actually be a mirage, as the girls long to be properly educated and find some stability.
“Bea, when you grow up would you like to be a shepherd?” asks one sister. “I’d like to be normal,” she replies. Nevertheless, it’s a reminder of what northern Africa offers: its people, its natural beauty and intricate culture.
It may now be a tourist destination more than a place to throw away your old life, but it’s beautiful and dirty, romantic and inspiring and a place a traveller may just find themselves again.
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