Chocolat | 2000
Lasse Hallström’s adaptation of the Joanne Harris novel has the mysterious red-cloaked Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) blowing into town with the north wind. She’s brought into conflict with local tradition when she begins to awaken villagers’ passions by flagrantly opening a chocolaterie during the fast of Lent. The film sidesteps any notions of anti-clericalism by turning her nemesis from the novel’s priest into the puritanical Mayor Reynaud (Alfred Molina).
The enticingly quaint riverside village of village of ‘Lansquenet’ is Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, about 30 miles northwest of Dijon in Burgundy, France. The village is pretty much as it’s seen on screen, although the glum statue of the mayor’s forebear was added for the production.
But if you’re in the UK, you can still enjoy some of the film’s Gallic charm.
The riverside, where the despised ‘river rats’ led by Roux (Johnny Depp) moor their flotilla of little boats, is the mile-long Fonthill Lake, on the Fonthill Estate in Fonthill Bishop, near Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Covering over 9,000 acres of outstanding beauty, the Estate has a fascinating history and a series of grand country mansions have been built over the centuries, including the legendary Fonthill Abbey, one of Britain’s most famous ‘lost’ houses. An immense house built on a ludicrous scale in the wildly popular Gothic Revival style by eccentric writer William Beckford Junior, the whole extravagant structure collapsed overnight, leaving only a tiny fragment (sadly, not accessible to the public).
The Fonthill Arch, just past the Riverbarn, would have been the gatehouse and entrance to the different mansions and abbey, and is believed to be the work of original Palladian architect, Inigo Jones.
Barra Hall in Hayes, West London, supplied the interior of the town hall. Originally a manor house, Barra did indeed become the area’s town hall in the 1920s, and is now used as a children’s centre. The hall is situated in Barra Hall Park, a 20-acre formal park on Freemans Lane, Hayes, West London, seen in Bend It Like Beckham.
In Yeovil, Somerset, is the delicious interior of Reynaud’s home. It’s Brympton House in Brympton D’Evercy. The house has no overall architectural style, having grown and been extensively added to since its beginnings in the 13th century. For a few years during World War II, Brympton was a boys' school, before being reclaimed by its owners as a private house.
Today occasionally hired out as a location for filming (Brympton House is also featured in 1995 historical drama Restoration, with Robert Downey Jr, as well as in several TV productions), or a hospitality event, it remains essentially a private residence. Reynaud’s red-silk walled dining room is Brympton’s State Dining Room. If you’re an incurable romantic, this is the place to celebrate your nuptials in fine style.