August of 2011 saw an attempt to transform George Square into the streets of Philadelphia as the film shooting of a new blockbuster – an adaptation of Max Brook’s World War Z – began then. Next year, presumably, when the film comes out, we’ll see if the attempt was a success.
It is worth mentioning that 2011 was productive for Glasgow in a cinematic sense, as just after World War Z, in September, the city saw Halle Berry on set of another Hollywood film adaptation, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and, in October, Scarlet Johansson was ready to star in the filming of Michel Faber’s creepy novel Under the Skin.
However, it is not just 2011 what allows Glasgow to be proud of, and boast about the hosting of big production films. Let’s mention some of those made in past decades.
Death Watch (1980): In the era when reality shows, such as The Family and The Gong Show just started to appear, acclaimed director Bertrand Tavernier decided to make Death Watch, a strong satire condemning tendencies of the media based on a novel by English writer D. G. Compton. This turned out to be a prophecy. The film is about a future where death does not exist anymore, people die only in rare cases. Katherine (Romi Shneider) is told she is one of those. Without her knowledge Roddy (Harvey Keitel) starts to film her as a camera is implemented in his brain. From the very beginning of the film, scenes characteristic to Glasgow come into play, and although it is never mentioned in the narrative, anyone who is a bit familiar with Glasgow will recognize the city immediately. It deserves a mention that in Tavernier’s portrayed world, Glasgow fits quite well into the utopian picture of the future.
My Name Is Joe (1998): Ken Loach has always been known for his social approach to cinema, this is particularly true in this film’s case. The drama is set in Possilpark, one of the most forsaken and roughest areas of Glasgow. Joe (Peter Mullan) is a former alcoholic, who tries to pull himself forward as he realizes his mistakes of the past. He manages the worst football team in the city and owns money to a local drug dealer. Loach touches typical problems for Glasgow, which makes this film not just another movie just purely set in Glasgow, but also one discussing the city and some its dwellers in more depth.
Danny the Dog – or Unleashed – (2005): Penned by Luc Besson and directed by Louis Leterrier, this film is another example in which the city itself is never mentioned. But read the plot summary and you may understand why Glasgow was particularly chosen. A man is raised into behaving like a dog by a captor from whom he escapes. However, the captor wants to find him, as he has special – and useful – martial arts skills, triggered when unleashed. It is evident that despite no intention of portraying any particular city, the choice of Glasgow worked well to depict an underworld city populated by criminals and outlaws.
Neds (2010): Who if not Peter Mullan would direct a film called Neds (Non Educated Delinquents)? Like My Name Is Joe, this one is not only set in Glasgow but also depicts the negative side of the city, telling the story of a hard-working teenager who later can’t escape the brutal environment he has grown up in and becomes part of the same world. In one of the interviews Peter Mullan stated that the film is not autobiographical, but rather personal, as he grew up in Cardonald and witnessed underage criminals. Given the film’s content, it is no surprise that in some cases the film features strong Glaswegian accent, so for those unfamiliar with it subtitles may be essential.
Perfect Sense (2011): This is the most recent film from those reviewed here. This indie film received very positive critical reviews. It is a story of love and apocalypse at the same time, featuring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green in the leading roles. It seems that in some sense Glasgow is destined and doomed to serve as a set for apocalyptic films. As David Mackenzie, the director of the film, stated the story had to deal with personal as well as global topics, so Glasgow was chosen as a dynamic and, at the same time, cosmopolitan centre. And, aside from social concerns, delinquency, media issues, and zombies, it certainly is a dynamic and cosmopolitan city!