Even gloomy settings can generate screen tourism2023-01-10
It is not only beautiful and vast landscapes as seen in "The Lord of the Rings" and medieval castles in "Game of Thrones" that attract screen tourists. In the genre Nordic Noir, a bridge under a grey sky between Sweden and Denmark can be seen as just as exciting.
Richard Ek, Professor of Human Geography at Karlstad University and connected to the Centre for Geomedia Studies, has together with Mia Larsson, Professor of Business Administration at the Service Research Centre (CTF), and Can Seng Ooi from the University of Tasmania published a book chapter that looks at how even gloomy and depressing settings in films and TV series can generate screen tourism.
- Films and TV series that are set in majestic and appealing environments have attracted screen tourists for many years, with iconic examples such as New Zealand’s mountain landscape in “The Lord of the Rings” and the medieval part of Dubrovnik in “Game of Thrones”, says Mia Larson.
But it is not just the aesthetically appealing and majestic environments that can attract tourists who want to relive familiar scenes from the TV screen. Films and TV series that are set in environments that are generally considered to be dull and unappealing can also attract curious screen tourists, even though the production team seems to have gone to great lengths to create a depressing and gloomy setting.
- One example is the Swedish-Danish TV series “The Bridge” (Bron), says Richard Ek. As part of the internationally established genre Nordic Noir, “The Bridge” visualises a contemporary Scandinavian urban landscape (Malmö and Köpenhamn) with great social divides. Here, the alienation is reflected in a stylistically Nordic minimal design, embedded in a foggy and grey environment where the damp cold almost penetrates the TV screen. In the series, the eccentric policewoman Saga searches for clues in old run-down warehouses and encounter people in the underbelly of society.
These landscapes can generate screen tourism, and both Copenhagen and Malmö offered organised guided tours to central filming locations of the series for several years. Similar to other intense experiences, a planned drive across the Öresund Bridge, where Saga found her first murder victim in two pieces, can become an optimal experience where fiction and reality are blurred. This type of experience can even exceed other experiences that the screen tourist combines when visiting a location - for example, a visit to the amusement park Tivoli in Copenhagen.
- Another example of films with depressing settings is the film series The Twilight Saga, says Mia Larson. The films are set in a rainy, cold and dark location in Northwestern USA – appealing only to vampires and werewolves. Despite this, the small town of Forks was flooded with tourists – from close to no tourism to 70,000 visitors in 2010.
- One reason why screen tourists are not only drawn to majestic mountains, medieval castles and magical railway platforms but also to miserable and worn-down filming locations is that even these locations enable the screen tourists to increase their understanding of engagement in stories , says Richard Ek. The locations may be gloomy and miserable but none the less appealing. Locations and the stories they hold do not necessarily have to be beautiful to attract screen tourists. The tourist experience can be an escape from reality where the thrilling and/or engaging events of the film or series are relived during a visit to the filming location. In other words, beauty and grandeur do not always triumph in these contexts.