I can’t remember the first time I’ve watch movie this or the number of times that I have. I don’t usually like watching period movies but this one is an exception. The movie is mostly about the Boleyn sisters and is based on a novel by Philippa Gregory. Mary (Scarlett Johansson), the younger and kinder daughter of Thomas Boleyn, became the mistress of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana). Her older sister, Anne (Natalie Portman), got jealous that the king was more enticed with Mary, plans to steal the king from her and make her his queen.
What made me love this movie is Mary and Anne’s relationship as sisters. After everything Anne has done to her family and to others, Mary was still by her sister’s side ‘til her death. I may have watched this a hundred times and loved the story but I have never stopped to think about and appreciate the architecture in this movie. Watching this movie again, I have come to notice 2 significant buildings which are the Boleyn manor house and the King’s Castle.
Hever Castle, the original household of Thomas Boleyn, was not used in the film. They substituted it with the Great Chalfield Manor which is not as grand as the original Boleyn household. The building was built in the early Renaissance period from 1465 to 1480 and is located at Great Chalfield, near Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. It is a moated manor house built for Thomas Tropenell who was an English lawyer and landowner in Wiltshire in the west of England. Though the building was built in the Renaissance period, its appearance has sort of a Gothic feel to it. It is fortified by a moat and wall like an English Manor house in the medieval period. It has Y tracery windows and a symmetrical external. I think they picked this building to show that the Boleyn family are part of the upper class because English manor houses are owned by lords. In the movie, this building is significant because this is where it all started, where the Boleyn girls grew up, and where the King made a visit to the Boleyn family.
After the King’s visit to the Boleyn household, the Mary and Anne were assigned to be ladies in waiting for Queen Catherine, King Henry VIII’s wife. They went to the Tower of London where the King and Queen reside. In the movie, they again replaced Tower of London with 3 different buildings. They would shoot scenes at the Dover Castle, Penshurst Place and the Knole.
Dover Castle has been used to ‘play’ the Tower of London in so many movies. It must be because of the grandness of the castle and the fact that it is the largest castle in England. The Great Chamber on the first floor of the castle was used as the cell of Anne before she goes out to be executed. Believed to be built in 12th century, which falls in the medieval period specifically in the Romanesque period, it shows characteristics that a Romanesque building would have. It is so massive plus its thick walls and its small openings; it’s clearly a Romanesque building.
As for the Penshurst Place, The Great Hall was redesigned to be used as a venue for feasts in the film. Penshurst place is a medieval house built in the 1341 for Sir John de Pulteney, a London merchant and four-times Mayor of London. With its plate and y traceries, massiveness and pointed arches, it is identified as a Gothic structure.
The Boleyn sisters may be the stars of the film, but without the right structures the movie won’t have the right feel to it. The fact that they shot in different locations just to get the vision of each scene, shows that they’ve put as lot of work into making the movie right. With the right architecture, they made the setting feel more authentic and real. With this I have come to realize the importance of incorporating the right structures in a movie.
Pauline Marie F. Fernandez
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