Our pick of five films and television series set in Guernsey that celebrate the cinematic quality of the island and its idyllic beaches.
26 Mar 2021
With its unspoilt coastline and rich history, it’s easy to see why Guernsey has repeatedly been chosen as the backdrop to major films and television series. From wartime thrillers to seaside dramas, guests staying at The Old Government House Hotel & Spa and The Duke of Richmond Hotel will be able to appreciate the cinematic quality of the island and see why film crews have long made use of St Peter Port’s historic houses in addition to the island’s atmospheric wartime bunkers and idyllic beaches. Here’s our pick of five films set in Guernsey.
Written and directed by the esteemed François Truffaut, The Story of Adele H. focuses on the life of Victor Hugo’s daughter and is based on her diaries. Starring Isabelle Adjani as Adele Hugo, the plot centres on Adele’s unrequited love for a British military officer, Lieutenant Pinson. Whilst a large portion of the film, which was made during the 1970s, is set in Nova Scotia, many scenes were actually filmed in Guernsey and well known local politicians, Sir Raymond Falla and Sir Cecil de Sausmarez, even appeared as extras in the film. Interior scenes were shot at a house in St Peter Port, the town were Victor Hugo himself lived for 15 years.
Filmed exclusively in Guernsey, this 1973 film is based on the novel of the same name by French writer Jean-Paul Clébert. Featuring Peter Sellers and Charles Aznavour, the story takes place on D-Day, when a group of men who are being held by the German army in a work camp seek shelter in a German bunker during a bombing raid. However, when the entrance to the bunker is blocked by shelling damage, the group end up permanently trapped inside. As the bunker doubles as a storehouse, the men have enough food and drink to last them for years and film is a stark examination of how they deal with their imprisonment, their relationships with one another and, ultimately, their death. Guernsey’s German Underground Hospital was chosen as the main filming location for The Blockhouse, which has eerie factual similarities with Clebert’s story, as it was built by prisoners of war held by the German forces during the occupation of Guernsey.
Based on Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea, Sea Devils combines both history and adventure and is set during the Napoleonic Wars. Rock Hudson plays the main part of Gilliatt, a Guernsey fisherman and smuggler who uses his ship, Sea Devil, to ferry a beautiful woman called Drouchette to France. Full of twists and turns, Gilliatt discovers that Drouchette, who he has fallen in love with, is a French countess working with Napoleon on a plot to invade Britain. However, Drouchette’s true identity as a British spy on a mission to prevent the French invasion is eventually revealed and Gilliatt sets off to rescue her before her cover is blown. Filmed on location in Guernsey, the 1950s film features a great deal of the island’s stunning coastline, which remains largely unchanged 60 years on.
A much-loved BBC TV drama, Howards’ Way documented the trials and tribulations of Tom Howard and his family. After losing his job as an aircraft designer, Tom decides to pursue his lifelong ambition to design and build boats by taking over a rundown boatyard. Full of drama, romance and power struggles, the popular series ran for five years and several episodes were filmed on Guernsey, a suitably marine setting for this nautically themed programme.
Highly anticipated and based on the best-selling book of the same name, the star of this wartime story is writer Juliet Ashton, played by Lily James, who enters into a correspondence with members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the island’s book club. Juliet visits the island, which is under German occupation, to meet the society’s members that she’s grown increasingly close with. Mary Anne Shaffer, the book’s author, visited Guernsey in the 1970s and was captivated and inspired by its history of German occupation and the stories of bravery surrounding it. As a result, the film, which was released in 2018, features some of the island’s best-known locations, such as Castle Cornet.
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