25 Jan 2015

Bond back in action in Istanbul

In the pre-title sequence of Skyfall, Bond finds a couple of Mi6 agents murdered in an apartment. The valuable hard drive, containing information about undercover agents, is gone. After leaving Ronson on M's orders, Bond gets after Patrice who has stolen the hard drive and escaped. The action and the following car chase takes place in Istanbul. Bond is back, for the third time in Turkey.

Craig comes out from the corner of a house located at a busy street in Istanbul. If this apartment belongs to the Mi6 as a safe house is a bit unclear. It is also possible that someone has been trying to sell the hard drive since there are piles of money on the table, and that Mi6 agents have been sent out to recover it. Patrice has apparently surprised and shot dead the British agents during the exchange. Craig in his ill-fitting suit, runs out on the street where he is picked up by Eve in a Land Rover.

However, in reality the house is the old Deutsche Orient Bank, located in the Eminönü neighborhood near the Galata Bridge in central Istanbul. The Deutsche Orient Bank was founded in 1906 and was a part of the Dresdner Bank. It was finally liquidated in 1946 but the sign above the entrance is still there, revealing this building's history. It lies right between Fındıkçı Remzi Sokak and Sultan Hamamı Caddesi and the entrance where Craig is coming out can be found right where these two streets meet.

Eve, who has been keeping a look-out further up the street, has seen Patrice leave the building and get into his Audi. Patrice, played by Swedish actor Ola Rapace, is unaware that he has been spotted and drives off. Eve is coming down on Sultan Hamamı Caddesi and picks up Bond as he exits the building.

Bond is walking through the hallway and out on the street. It is hard to determine whether this scene was shot in studio or on location.

Skyfall was the third Bond film to be shot on location in Turkey, the previous being From Russia With Love and The World is not Enough. Naturally, given that Bond has visited the city before, the choice of Turkey as a Bond location for Skyfall is a bit uninspiring and disappointing. Furthermore, since the more exotic landmarks of the city has been pictured in both From Russia With Love and The World is not Enough, there are very few interesting sights shown in Istanbul, apart from the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar.

After picking up Bond, they follow Patrice as he drives down Büyük Postane Caddesi. Continuing down this street you will eventually get to the larger Ankara Caddesi after a few hundred meters. From here you are only two minutes away from the Sirkeci train station, the station from where Bond and Tania jumps on the Orient Express in From Russia With Love.

The building lies very close to the spice market and, as stated above, is located right in the heart of the walled city of Constantine. The Walls of Constantinople was a series of defensive stone walls that surrounded and protected the city of Constantinople. Hence, this is one of the oldest parts of the city.

Early production rumors stated that the car- and motorbike chase, as well as the following train action sequence would be filmed in Bombay, India. However, these plans were scrubbed since it was, according to Director Mendes, logistically incredibly difficult to shut down the center of an enormous Indian city.

"We tried to make it work and to embrace the chaos, but in the end there were too many dangers - I don't mean from people trying to sabotage production, but there are narrow streets that are difficult to film in. I was very disappointed," Mendes said. Ultimately, Mendes found everything he was looking for in Turkey.

South Africa was also considered for Skyfall and would have been a much more interesting location than both India and Turkey. Bond has yet to visit South Africa even though he expressed his wishes to go there already in the 1971 Diamonds are Forever. (Why Bond wanted to go to apartheid South Africa in the 70's is however, still a bit unclear.)

19 Jan 2015

From Russia With Love - Establishing Istanbul

"Have him report to me in Istanbul in 24 hours!"  - Klebb -

The first establishing shot over Istanbul in From Russia With Love, is a beautiful view over the city and the most recognisable landmark of old Constantinople; the Hagia Sophia. And in the background - the irresistible Bosporus. In front of Hagia Sophia is the Sultan Ahmed Park.

The Hagia Sophia, or Aya Sofya in Turkish, was constructed almost 1500 years ago, in 537 during the Byzantine Empire. It was an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral and it remained the world's largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. It was converted to a Roman Orthodox cathedral for a few decades under the Latin Empire between 1204 and 1261 and it was converted to a mosque in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople. It was the Sultan, Mehmed II, who ordered this main church of Orthodox Christianity to be converted into a mosque, and it served as one for 500 years, until 1931 when the building was closed for the public and opened as a museum four years later.

The design of Hagia Sophia served as an inspiration for several Ottoman mosques in Istanbul, including the Blue Mosque covered below. The Hagia Sophia is probably one of the most famous sights in the city, and one of the most interesting buildings from a historical point of view. From a Bond perspective the Hagia Sophia is, naturally, a must see when in Istanbul. It is here that Bond meets Tania later in the film, and collects her map over the Russian consulate while Grant kills the stalking Bulgar. However, we only get to see the exterior once, during the first establishing shot (top picture).

We get the second establishing shot over Istanbul just before the limpet mine detonates outside of Kerim's office. Another famous landmark of the city is picuterd, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque. At the same time we get another beautiful view over the Bosporus.

The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are located in the oldest part of Istanbul in the Fatih district, facing each other on opposite sides of Sultan Ahmed park. The park and two of the six minarets of the Blue Mosque are visible in the top picture. When standing in front of the two mosques you are not more than a 15 minutes walk away from several other Bond locations, such as the Orient Express train station, the Grand Bazaar, the water cistern and the Galata Bridge. All of these will be covered later.

The Blue Mosque was built during the rule of Sultan Ahmed I in 1616. Up until its construction, the Hagia Sophia had been the principal mosque of Istanbul and unlike the Hagia Sophia, it is still in use today. During filming of From Russia With Love, the camera was most likely placed in one of the minarets to provide the establishing shots over the old city.

Both mosques are magnificent buildings and are impossible to miss when in Istanbul. You should take your time when walking around these buildings in the Sultan Ahmed Park and the adjacing streets. There are several ancient buildings and sights to see in this area of Istanbul.

14 Jan 2015

Struan's Noble House - Jardine House

In the mini series Noble House, Struan's head office is located in one of the skyscrapers in central Hong Kong. The building that served as Struan's headquarters is called Jardine House and is located in Hong Kong Island's Central district. There are several establishing shots of the building throughout the series. It was formerly known as Connaught Centre and is located at No. 1 Connaught Place.

Upon its completion in 1972 the Jardine House was not only the tallest building in Hong Kong but in all Asia, something that is hard to believe today. The title sequence in each of the four episodes starts off with an in-zooming of the building that symbolises the Noble House. To the right in the picture above is the distinctive HSBC headquarters building, known as the coat hanger.

Bartlett and Casey arrive with the Star Ferry from Kowloon.

The building is in reality owned by Hong Kong Land Ltd. which is a subsidiary of Jardines. Interestingly, just like Struan's, Jardines (Jardine Matheson Holdings) is one of the original Hong Kong trading houses or Hongs that dates back to Imperial China. The firm was founded in Canton by two University of Edinburgh graduates Willaim Jardine and James Matheson and with the cession of Hong Kong under the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, the firm set up its headquarters on Hong Kong Island. Today, Jardines is among the top 200 publicly traded companies in the world.

Hong Kong 25 years after Noble House

Just like in Noble House, the Jardines is controlled by a family who are descendants to the Jardine family by marriage. It becomes obvious that James Clavell who wrote the book 'Noble House' had been inspired by real life events and modeled the fictitious Struan's after one of the real East Asia Trading companies, like Jardines.

The antagonist, Quillan Gornt, has an office in the building directly behind Struan's. The Noble House blocks his otherwise perfect sea view. Probably meant as a symbol of the rivalry between them. In the first episode Linc Bartlett goes to see Gornt in his office. 'Rothwell-Gornt' is located in World Wide House, behind Exchange Square and Struan's in the series.

Part of the deal with the government when Jardines acquired the lot and constructed the new building in the 1970's was that no building would ever be constructed to obstruct its view to the north.

 Visible to the far right is Rothwell-Gornt's building.

The Jardine House was still one of the taller buildings in Hong Kong as late as 1988 (left bottom picture), but it has almost completely disappeared when comparing the skyline from today (right bottom picture).

6 Jan 2015

Villa Baku - Küçüksu Kasri, Istanbul

After celebrating new years in Istanbul, I am starting off 2015 with one of the more beautiful locations from the city. In The World is not Enough, Bond goes to Azerbaijan to see Elektra in the hunt for Renard. Bond visits her house on a few occasions in the film and spends the night after an evening at the Casino. Elektra's villa is supposedly located on the shores of the Caspian Sea in Baku. However, the small palace can be found on the shores of the Bosporus, in the outskirts of Istanbul.

The house is called Küçüksu Kasri and is situated in the Küçüksu neighborhood of Beykoz district on the Asian shore of the Bosporus. The palace, built in neo-baroque style was completed in 1857 and was used by Ottoman sultans for short stays during country excursions and hunting.

Not far from the palace you can find Anadoluhisarı, a 14th century fortress that was built in preparations of the second Ottoman siege of Constantinople. This fortress is probably a more well known tourist attraction than Elektra's villa, which is fortunate since it leaves this Bond location fairly undisturbed.

The bridge visible in the background is the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge
Both floors have four corner rooms surrounding a central hall. The interior decoration was made by the state designer at the Vienna State Opera. For some years during the beginning of the Attatürk period, the palace was used as a state guesthouse but in the 1940's it underwent a thorough renovation and has since then been a museum open to the public.

Right next to the villa is a café that has a nice view over the house and the river. Here you should stop and fully enjoy this beautiful location over a lunch or a coffee. It is possible to take a boat to of from this location, but a taxi ride across the Bosporus bridge and along the waterfront is not a bad idea either. A taxi from Şişli to the palace should cost around 50 Lira. Be sure to ask the driver for an estimate first. If you have plenty of time, a boat ride along the Bosporus should not be more than 10 Lira per person.