Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Movie Review: Ladyhawke

It's one of the best cheesy fantasy films ever made.  It helped propel Matthew Broderick into the spotlight.  It was one of Rutger Hauer's few really good roles.  It starred a young and very beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer.  You've probably all seen the movie, and if you haven't, for shame.  Go see it now.  I'll wait.

Now that you've seen it, I really don't have to talk about the plot.  It's a pretty basic one anyway.  Get back to the castle in time to break the curse and end all that "hawk by day, wolf by night" nonsense that's keeping the lonely couple apart.    And while there are a lot of twists and turns along the way, you probably knew how it would turn out in the end.  Highlight the hidden text below if you want to find out what happens.  Spoiler alert:

They live happily ever after.

The real beauty of the film, besides Michelle Pfeiffer of course, was the cinematography - the setting and scenes of giant castles and quaint medieval towns.  Much of it was filmed in Italy, using the castles and picturesque towns of Rocca Calascio, Castell'Arquato, and Torrechiara.

Rocca Calascio, © Aurelio Candido

Rocca Calascio is a mountaintop fortress (lit. Rock, in Italian), in L'Aquila Province, Abruzzo, Italy.  At 4,790 feet above sea level, it's the highest fortress in the Apennine Mountains, and overlooks the Plain of Campo Imperatore in the Navelli Valley below.

Rocca Calascio, © Federi

It was built as a watchtower to accommodate a military garrison sometime around the 10th century, and was expanded over a period of time, especially in the 14th and 16th centuries.  It was never challenged in siege or battle, but was badly damaged in a powerful earthquake in the year 1461.  The movie distinctly shows how impenetrable it most likely was, with its high walls and inaccessible surrounding terrain.

Castell'Arquato, © Andrea Lodi

Rocca Viscontea di Castell'Arquato is a castle by the tiny town of Castell'Arquato in the hilly Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy.

Castell'Arquato, © Sergio & Babriella Trentanni

It's one of the best preserved castles in Italy, with picturesque views overlooking the town and surrounding countryside.  Much of the town dates back to the 13th century, allowing a distinct look into the history of the region.

Torrechiara, © Hellis Reverberi

Built in the mid-15th century, Torrechiara was the main castle "Aquila" featured in the movie, and is located in the province of Parma in Northern Italy.  Sitting high above the Parma river valley, it has remained almost unchanged since it was first built, a bold and formidable castle, a truly great setting for the final showdown with the Bishop of Aquila.

Torrechiara, © Luigi Alighieri

All in all, the movie is highly entertaining.  In part because of the actors and the plot, but also because of the magnificent scenery throughout.  It feels more like a fairy tale, an old story told around the campfire of some medieval band of merry adventurers.  So next time you watch it, take in the scenery and the footage of the beautiful Italian castles and towns.  Pay attention to the architecture and grand panoramic shots.  After all, you already know how it's going to end.


  1. I'm a huge fan of the film. Even saw it on a Laser Disc. Yes, those big golden disk that never caught on but had extremely good quality compared to VHS.

    To top it off, I'm doing research on Italian City-States/Republics for my current WiP.

  2. Glad you liked it, and that it was so timely. That's a beautiful part of the world, if you've never been there. Most definitely a place to visit if you get the chance.