World cinema often has the ability to inspire travel, but it also can deter us from going to a place as well.
Things are pretty rosy these days after the success of The Lord of Rings trilogy of films. Tourism is booming to the land of the long white cloud. Cinema-goers associated New Zealand with the Middle Earth landscapes captured in the movies, but wisely realised that they wouldn’t encounter any Ringwraiths while hiking the Milford Sound.
Things weren’t so bright, though, in 1993 when The Piano gave the world a period re-interpretation of The Shining‘s idea of married life. Next year Once Were Warriors confirmed that things hadn’t progressed much in contemporary New Zealand culture. Its portrayal of a Maori nuclear family represented New Zealand as a post-apocalyptic wasteland of violence.
Crocodile Dundee (1986) gave the world Australia. Tourism boomed. The key to Crocodile Dundee‘s tourism success was its portrayal of Mick Dundee as a disarming and quirky noble savage. “Come to Australia,” it said, “and feel welcome and superior to the locals.” Twenty years later Wolf Creek (2005) destroyed that image with another Mick. In the film, Mick Taylor (closely based on real Australian serial killers) preys on tourists down under.
There are loads of films set in France that make me want to go. But none of them surpasses Betty Blue (1986). This is France’s version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but the core of its appeal is the French take on sex (and with it life in general). The best way to describe how sex is portrayed is “household”. Where American films portray violence as un-shameful, in French films it is sex that isn’t shameful. This characterisation has since been undermined by the very disturbing Irreversible (2002).
When the American forces left Vietnam, Hollywood began its celluloid war on the nation. The first great Vietnam war film is The Deer Hunter (1978), and possibly still the one that puts off people going to Vietnam the most. War is hell, but the Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter was a one-sided indictment of atrocities. Two films by Tran Anh Hung resurrected peacetime Vietnam: The Scent of a Green Papaya (1993) and Cyclo (1995). Both are lush, taciturn movies that capture the daily life of Vietnam. Cyclo, however, is the darker of the two, as it reworks Taxi Driver (1976) into a Vietnamese setting. Strangely, Cyclo made me visit Vietnam more than The Scent….
Tell us which movies have made you want to go to a destination (or avoid it).