I’ve been making my way through the Oscar Best Picture nominees and they’ve got me thinking about places a lot. For instance, Parasite (which is so good you should go see it right now!) relies on the set and location to tell stories – the rich live above ground, the poor live below with just a slim window to show them what could be. The film is in no way a tourism advertisement for visiting Korea, but the story reflects heavily on Korea (and as an American I made connections between the US and the world portrayed in the film). You find yourself dreaming of the gorgeous house and haunted by the way that image is maintained.
Both Marriage Story and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood show Los Angeles as if they are a snapshot of a memory – familiar and yet deeply personal to whoever is sharing their LA. Marriage Story sees LA and New York as homes to be lived in, while Tarantino’s film idolizes a Hollywood on the verge of change. I have zero interest in packing up my bags to live in these worlds and these films did nothing to encourage me to book a trip, but in the same way La La Land made folks dreamy about LA, these films capture a particular energy that few other cities exude. It made me want to find a place that makes me feel that connection, that energy.
While I’m not immediately influenced to go to LA or Korea by these films, Little Women made me want to throw my hair into braids, put on a hoop skirt, and make my way up to New England to see the leaves change color. Despite the significant time difference between Jo March’s world and the present, there’s a draw to living in a house in the woods and spending one’s day reading.
Little Women isn’t the first time a film has made me want to travel. When I was younger, I watched the Lord of the Rings series on repeat, dreaming of escaping into this gorgeous new land of adventure. The closest I could get to living in those stories was a trip to New Zealand. My bucket list was one bullet point: New Zealand.My parents and I were able to visit Hobbiton while I was studying abroad in Australia. I, and I’m sure many others, could have spent hours exploring each hobbit-hole and imagining myself in the world I watched so intently on the screen. Each hill was an adventure, and each road led to a new story. New Zealand is a magical place that I’m so desperate to go back to, and so much of that connection is due to what I saw on a screen.
(Maybe the Lord of the Rings isn’t for you, but Croatia and Iceland have both received tourism booms thanks to folks wanting to visit the world shown in Game of Thrones. And Hogwarts lives on in a thousand different places throughout the UK, Outlander is bringing folks to Scotland. Downtown Abbey, Star Wars, you name it, you can visit just a glimmer of the world on your screen.)
It’s not always quite the same in real life, but it’ll work. And not every Oscar nominated film will inspire the same sense of wanderlust – I personally don’t fancy reliving the trenches of 1917 or exploring the Nazi Germany of Jojo Rabbit. (you should still watch them too!)
But maybe a trip to France or Germany or a long journey to New Zealand is in my future…