Sunday 22 May 2016

Madhouse diaries : Dunkirk steps back into wartime (courtesy of Christopher Nolan)

Earlier in the week, I gave you a glimpse into the changes that are going on in Dunkerque in preparation for Christopher Nolan's Hollywood remake of Operation Dynamo and the evacuation of Dunkirk. (Dunkerque is the French version of Dunkirk, in case you were confused !) Filming starts tomorrow and the sector that they are filming in will be off limits so I wanted to head back and see what they've been up to.  All that sand that had been delivered along the prom has been made into sandbags which instantly gives it a wartime look.

They've still got a long way to go though - I wonder how many people are on sandbag duty to get through this lot (and there's even more along the seafront !).

It all feels a little bit spooky and I kept expecting to hear gunshots or soldiers yelling !

They've started bringing in old-fashioned military vehicles too, which adds to the atmosphere.

Behind-the-scenes workers are still busy carrying out the final finishing touches, such as painting the streetlamps to make them look old (or blacked out? Not sure if they had a blackout in France like they did in England but it would make sense.)

This guy may look like he's cleaning the shutters but he's actually making them dirty, rubbing grease all over them !

 I'm not sure that this car (which takes part in the regular wartime rallies to commemorate Operation Dynamo - you may remember me showing you pictures of the War and Peace commemoration last year where it was one of many vintage vehicles) was anything to do with the film set, but it had wartime music blaring out of the loudspeaker which added even more authenticity.

La Voix De Son MaƮtre, otherwise known as His Master's Voice. Some things never go out of fashion !

 Moving back down to the seafront, you can see how flimsy the set is, which actually makes it all the more impressive.

From the front, it does look very realistic though - it's hard to remember how the concert/exhibition hall usually looks after seeing it transformed into a 1940's factory for several weeks already ! 

The beach has had lots of interesting bundles of props delivered.

These would appear to be ammo boxes.

 With and without handles.

Some things are still under wraps (I wonder if that's where the expression comes from) but I think this looks like a miltary vehicle. Maybe burnt/bombed out because none of the others are covered over.

A bit further along was another military truck and, behind it, a 1940's style kitchen dresser, complete with stainless steel kitchenware (so I'm guessing there will be some inside scenes too). Given the number of water jugs, this may be for a cafe/restaurant scene.

 We were buying couque suisses (pastries) from a popular seafront vendor last week while the set was being put up. Well, this is how it looks now. Totally unrecognisable !

 Again, it's all in the details, like the little net curtains, the old-fashioned lights and the smashed window.

 When you watch films on TV or at the cinema, you just don't realise the hours of work that go into getting the sets ready. This woman was rubbing down the noticeboards with a scrubbing brush and a block of something black.

It was painstakingly slow work and she still had this one to do afterwards.

Even the bottles in the wooden crates have been covered with dust.

 It looks like they'll just be rolling down wooden blinds to hide the other cafes and restaurants slightly further along that won't really be in shot.

I'm not sure if this is part of the set or just a dumping zone for more sand !

I can't work out what these are - stretchers maybe?

It's all getting quite exciting now - I'll be at work during the actual filming but it's not far from the set so I think we'll hear the sirens warning the locals not to panic because the explosions and gunfire is about to start.

 The landing jetty at the far end of the beach that the evacuation happened from is now ready and restored to how it was during the war. (You can see how it used to be here, before the film crew moved in.)

The next step will be the arrival of all the Little Ships - they come back every year to commemorate the part they played in the war but it will be great for them to feature in the film. (I blogged about their visit last year here and shared some of the poignant memories that the boat owners and veterans' families shared.) Some warships have already arrived in port so I'm hoping to go and look at those this afternoon. I'm not sure if Le Cormoran is here for the film or not though.


  1. That must bring some vivid memories about the real events. Fascinating to observe how the town is transformed to look like going back in time.

  2. It must be so fascinating to watch all this going on and so exciting. Thanks for linking up


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