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Germany’s big moment on screen

Three recent movies – the Monuments Men, the Book Thief, and Grand Budapest Hotel – have now been released, and all three were shot in Germany. But is Germany tourism likely to benefit?

The current critical and commercial success of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel comes on the heels of a recent flurry of blockbuster films made in Germany, but it is a flurry which the German tourist board doesn’t seem to be alert to.

First to air in 2014 was the Monuments Men, with a storyline about a platoon of soldiers who are given the mission of retrieving art masterpieces from the Nazis and returning them to their owners; it was boosted by the real life discovery of the stash of looted masterpieces found in Munich (although surprisingly the film’s publicity machine didn’t make much of that particular piece of serendipity). It was largely filmed in Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam, the world’s oldest film studios still in production, and exterior material was shot in pretty places like Goslar, by the Harz mountains.

It was followed at the end of February by the Book Thief, a film version of the best-selling book of the same name, and also a war story. The film stars Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, and was largely filmed in and around the east German town of Görlitz (see our page on the Sleeping Beauty of the East), as well as in Babelsberg, too. Another war-time story during the dark days of the Third Reich where a girl, whose parents have been removed to a concentration camp, steals books and shares them with a Jewish refugee who is being sheltered by her adoptive parents below stairs.

And finally came Grand Budapest Hotel, released on the 7th March, a Wes Anderson movie about the eccentric goings-on in a grand hotel in an unspecified country between the wars. The hotel was created out of an art nouveau shopping centre in Görlitz (again), a shopping centre which is currently untenanted. It has a cracking cast – Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Owen Wilson etc – and has proved a highly entertaining romp.

It’ll be interesting to see whether any of these movies give a helping hand to regional tourism. Over in Saxony they’re calling Görlitz ‘Gorliwood’, thanks to these and to previous movies like the Reader and Inglourious Basterds, which were also filmed in the town. But on a national level I haven’t seen any link-up between tourism marketing and these new releases, with no mention visible on the website. New Zealand made huge marketing capital out of its Lord of the Rings films; Budapest is catching onto the coat-tails of Grand Budapest Hotel; maybe Germany should try to cash in, too.

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