Real & Reel: Pompeii 2011

Pompeii was a thriving Roman city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Today, the ruins of Pompeii has obtained UNESCO World Heritage Site status. And it has been on my bucket list since I first heard the story of Pompeii as a young teen. But until 2011, I never had the chance to go to Pompeii.

In 2011, I wanted to tour Europe. When my mum heard about my plans, she told me she wanted to join me as well. She didn’t have as many days of leave as I did, so we started the journey together but I wandered off on my own to London and Paris after our travels together. Initially, when I was planning for a solo trip, I had wanted to travel on my own instead of rely on packaged tours. But with my mum coming along and the fact that I have never been to Italy before, I didn’t want to take the risk. That, and the fact that planning for a trip takes time, time I didn’t have with a full time job at the television station. So I made arrangements for us to travel around Barcelona and Rome on our own then joined a 12-day tour of Italy. Although I’m not a fan of packaged group tours, I was glad I went on that tour.

Part of the reason why I agreed to that particular tour was because it covered all the cities I wanted to see in Italy – Venice, Verona, Milan, Florence, Pisa, Capri, Sicily, Naples, and of course Pompeii. Yeap, it’s a lot to fit in to 12 days. But, it gave me a taste of Italy and now I’m itching for more.

Standing in Pompeii was a surreal experience. Think about it. You are standing in a place where all the things you read about actually happened! That’s what I love about visiting ruins. There, a piece of history is recorded for you to see and touch (if permitted). You read all about it in books or find out about places through documentaries, but nothing prepares you for when you actually step foot in it. There among the ruins of Pompeii, with a little imagination, I actually felt like I was standing among the people of Pompeii the day they died. It’s a pity we had so little time in Pompeii, but I did get some photographs to remember the day I visited Pompeii.

Three years after visiting Pompeii, a film was released about the day Mount Vesuvius erupted. Take two fictional characters, plonk them amidst a slice of history and work a story around them that tells the tale of that moment in time. It’s James Cameron’s Titanic. Only this time it’s about the city of Pompeii on the day it was destroyed and buried under ash and pumice.

I can’t remember why I didn’t go see Pompeii at the cinema, but when the DVD was released, I finally got the chance to watch the film.

I saw what remains of Pompeii after the 79AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius when I visited the site in 2011 and I was blown away by the Pompeii I saw in the film. Mostly because I spotted a few distinguishing structures in the film that looked like the ones I saw in the excavated city itself! The set designers were really meticulous and did a fantastic job with their research!

Not sure what I’m going on about? Well look at these photographs and see for yourself.

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The screen grab above shows the market place in Pompeii. Behind the two actresses are many cylindrical columns that hold up the roof and further out in the open area there are a number of statues. It’s not exactly the same, but this courtyard I saw in the ruins of Pompeii had similarities to the market place featured in the film.

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This particular screen grab shows Pompeii already partially destroyed. If you look at the left side of the image, the walls of the building look very similar to the one in the following photograph. The walkway is narrower than the one in the screen grab but if you look at the third photograph, the width of the pedestrian pathway is wider like in the screen grab. Once again not an exact match but nonetheless the attention to detail definitely caught my attention.

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I know all you see is chaos in the screen grabs, but look closely and see if you can spot the square stone structure I took at the ruins of Pompeii. It’s a water fountain much like the shiny metal rectangle ones we have these days. If you take a look at the last screen grab, there is a craving that looks like a little like a stylised lion with water coming out from its mouth. I don’t have a photograph of the actual one in Pompeii, but I do believe they fashioned the film version based on the one in Pompeii itself.

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In the film there was a sweeping shot of Mount Vesuvius and the city of Pompeii. When I saw the scene, I realised that the archways and columns reminded me of the ones I saw in Pompeii. But it’s only after I started analysing the reel and real Pompeii that I noticed that the structure between the archways might have been used to help create the set of Pompeii as seen in the screen grab above.

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The screen grab above shows the leading lady walking through the streets of Pompeii. See the 3 large slabs in the middle of the road. They’re identically to the ones I saw in the ruins of Pompeii. In the photograph above, I only captured 1 of those rectangular slabs. But I remember seeing 3 of them. Just like in the film.

As you can tell I like going into details. And I enjoy comparing what’s real and what’s reel. In fact, I have even travelled to some cities and locations just to see the actual building or structure I saw in films. As such, I’ve decided to make the Real & Reel series a permanent fixture in my blog. This is the first of the series and I hope you enjoyed it.

What do you think?
Do you also get a kick out of spotting locations in films you have already seen in real life? Do you enjoy visiting the actual location featured in films? What do you like about being in the same location as the ones featured in films?  Did you know that most locations seen in films are not actually where the characters say they are?

* Please note that the stills from the film are screen grabs, I don’t own the rights to them.

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5 responses to “Real & Reel: Pompeii 2011

  1. You are so interesting! I do not believe I have
    read through anything like that before. So good to discover
    another person with some original thoughts on this topic.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that is required on the
    internet, someone with some originality!

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