On one of my first conversations with K, in an obscure badminton court in Bandra, he asked me “Did you ever travel to a place inspired by a movie?”
I said “ No” trying to sound calm, collected, serendipitous, elaborated on how I pick the places I travel to almost on an impulse. But that question stayed with me and I corrected myself 15 minutes into the conversation. “Lost in Translation,” I said. “It made me yearn to go to Tokyo, and you know what, I still haven’t been”.
I realized that cinema being such a visual medium is obviously going to affect our choices, consciously or subconsciously. Just like vacation pictures of a dear friend, or animated travel stories by a companion at a dinner table and sometimes maybe more.
Here are some movies that have inspired wanderlust in me:
Copolla’s portrayal of the relationship between Charlotte, the young wife of a busy photographer and Bob Harris, an ageing actor is hauntingly beautiful. They meet at a hotel where they are both staying in Tokyo.
The hotel is the backdrop of their unlikely friendship. One that stems from their loneliness in this strange strange city where they seem to be lost in translation. Charlotte’s melancholy balances the kitschiness of the city outside, which is the other main character in the movie. You discover the city alongside Charlotte and Bob. You try street food with them, sing at karaoke bars and let the busy streets overwhelm you. Soon you also end up feeling quite lost in translation.
Of course, a Lost in translation tour!
Park Hyatt, where the film was almost entirely shot, were inundated by requests of tourists who wanted to stay in the “ Lost in Translation hotel/ room”. As expected, there is a Lost in translation tour in Tokyo. It takes you around to the spots where the characters visited. It ends in the whiskey bar in the Park Hyatt where the characters first met, and you can sit and take in the shimmering lights of the city over a glass of Japan’s finest.
Call me by your name: Lombardy, Italy | Luca Guadagnino
This coming of age movie is a beautiful testament of first love and the harsh realities of it. Perhaps too harsh for Elio, a 17-year-old who falls in love with the handsome doctoral intern Oliver who has come to assist Elio’s father.
The movie is set in a small town in Lombardy. The two characters play a truant game of hide and seek through the first half, literally and otherwise. Cycle rides, cobblestone streets, a 14th-century cathedral, an expansive villa lush with fruit-bearing trees, secret nooks, verdant fields, volleyball games, swims in creeks, the splendour of the location is mesmerizing.
The movie will make you want to fall in love, slipping notes under his door for the first time, all over again. Soak in the slow summer in Italy with Elio and Oliver.
Before sunrise: Vienna, Austria | Richard Linklater
Jesse and Celine meet on a train by chance and get off at Vienna into the first 10 minutes of the movie. Jesse does plead a little since it’s his last day in Europe before he leaves for America. Celine who is on her way to her home to Paris agrees to step off the train on an impulse, knowing that this will their first day together, and most probably their last.
Then we are introduced to the third and only other character in the movie, Vienna. Beautiful gardens, buildings, bistros, elaborate stations, record shops form the background of this love story that begins. The city witnesses the beauty of two people getting to know each other and we, as the audience, watch the three of them waltz their way through an unforgettable day.
The bridges, the stores, the tram rides, the park, the Riesenrad weave their presence into the story so effortlessly and it makes you yearn to visit these places and maybe, just maybe, feel the same way that they feel. Young lovers, falling in love in a new city, is there a more beautiful thing?
Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Iceland | Ben Stiller
Based on a short story written by James Thurber in 1939, the movie plays out in present-day New York. Walter is stuck in a desk job developing photos in Life magazine, an art and a job slowly dying. He imagines an alternate life where he is doing the stuff that superheroes do. While his real life is very very dull.
The photographer Sean O Conell has left Negative No. 25 which is the cover of the last print issue of the magazine and it goes missing! Mitty sets off to trace the photographer who could be anywhere in the world. Thus begins an adventure to call his own. This transcontinental journey takes you across magical landscapes: mountains, glaciers, deserts, volcanoes, rolling grasslands, massive waterfalls, fjord-side towns and all of this was shot in Iceland.
I have such a Walter Mitty hangover in my Iceland post, it is no big secret that this is a movie that inspired me to travel to Iceland.
Though the story is funny and witty, it is mostly perfumed by optimism that will remind you of Forest Gump. While Mitty is not solving problems of the world, you are constantly rooting for the guy and hope that he finds the negative. What he sees in the negative is for you to find out, if you haven’t already watched it.
Submarine: Swansea, Wales | Richard Ayoade
Based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne, the movie sticks very fiercely to its Welsh roots. Right from Swansea, where both the book and movie are based on, to the humour used, the cultural references. The mood is quite Wes Anderson-esque with the entire storytelling being very verbal. It is a coming of age tale about 15-year-old Oliver Tate falling for an equally unpopular Jordana Bevan. We see the story play out from his viewpoint entirely and the budding relationship quickly transposes to Oliver’s parent’s relationship which seems to be in the doldrums now. The story is a tale often told, but the movie and the setting play it out really well.
The cinematography is wistful, the commentary whimsical and the soundtrack is a star. The movie dwells in the brooding seaside town and it makes you want to visit to experience it for yourself.
Motorcycle Diaries: Argentina, Chile, Peru, South America | Walter Salles
This one is a quintessential movie for the travel lover. The Motorcycle Diaries tells the story of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and his friend Alberto “Mial” Granado who set off on a rickety motorcycle, traversing 14000km across 8 months. It is based on their memoir.
The duo travel across the continent. Rainforests to deserts, mountains to glacial lakes and the vistas along the way are spellbinding. You travel to Argentina, Chile and Peru with these two friends and it makes you want to seek out that friend and leave. While the continent is shown in its bloom, the movie also keeps it very real. It is not pretty pictures and pastel colours. It is the real, gritty, hits-you-in-the-gut kind of beautiful.
The movie portrays beautifully how travel can be a transformative experience. It can make you value the things you take for granted. While it starts off as a fun road movie, it eventually makes you want to look for your own truth. That is the best part of the movie for me.
P.S I also loved the following movies. The depiction of Pondicherry in Life of Pi, Luxury train travel in India in Darjeeling Limited, Ubud, Bali from Eat Pray Love.
Thank you for taking time out and seeing the list of movies that have inspired me to set off on some of my travels. What are the movies that have made you feel the same? Tell me in the comments section, I would love to know.