Monday 15th May, 2006

Today weíre in the nave of Winchester cathedral, magnificently remodelled by William of Wykeham in the early 15th century. Not surprisingly however this is not Winchester for us, but St. Paulís cathedral in London. St Paulís Ė old St. Paulís that is Ė was gutted in the great fire of London in 1666 and then demolished to make way for the present cathedral so we canít film in the real location.

Cathedrals, indeed all ancient buildings often seem unchangeable but this is not the case. They adapt to reflect their time, being remodelled (like Winchester) or sometimes even demolished (like St. Paulís). Yet in films we often see vistas from the past as complete, finished and all of one period. So Tudor London is all half-timbered houses, Mediaeval castles are all gloomy and stone. In The Golden Age weíre trying to get away from that, so the St. Paulís that Elizabeth walks into is a building site, filled with scaffolding and masons. This reflects firstly the fact that Elizabethan London wasnít a finished Tudor Ďsetí but an organic city made up of buildings of all periods Ė often being demolished and replaced (in an era before planning controls or English Heritage). Secondly it reflects the later fate of St. Paulís itself which was badly damaged in 1561 (when itís spire collapsed following a lightning strike) and the progressive stripping of Catholic iconography from the building in the wake of the Reformation. This is a London being made and remade Ė as London always has been and still is.

4 thoughts on “Monday 15th May, 2006

  1. As a lover of ancient cathedrals I was interested in that aspect of Elizabeth, which was made partly in Durham Cathedral (probably one of the most beautiful cathedrals in England). I was wondering how you filmed de scene in York Minster where Elizabeth was crowned. How did you get rid of the organ screen between nave and quire?

  2. Dear Justin
    It’s good to read that real-life complexity and mutability are deliberately being designed into Golden Age.
    In Elizabeth, I’d guess this was done, too (no one wrote about it, so it’s just a guess). For example, the scene of Elizabeth in her dance class outside presents an overwhelming contrast between the glorious clothing the ladies are wearing, and the rough field setting for the class. What this tells me each time I watch it, is that Elizabeth and her ladies were real, whole, imperfect human beings, despite the geat privileges they had that allowed them to dress so well and have dance classes, instead of wearing homespun wool, feeding pigs, weaving, washing, etc., as most other women of the age might have had to do.
    I still watch Elizabeth at least once a year. The complexity allows me to experience new details and levels and views of the story. The complexity also mixes humanity with history in away that brings the story alive each time I watch it again.
    So…I can’t wait to see Golden Age!!
    love, Heather

  3. Anne – if memory serves we hid the organ at York using computer graphics. It was a big graphics sequence as we had to use computers to replicate the crown to make it big enough to fill the nave. I think we also used graphics to ‘paint out’ the organ.

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