Notes On A Scandal | 2006
Patrick Marber (who wrote the play Closer) adapts Zoe Heller’s novel, and the lovely Judi Dench gets the chance to play the spectacularly nasty Barbara Covett, a manipulative schoolteacher who exploits her younger colleague’s affair with an underage student.
The film is set mainly around north London, established early on with a shot of Archway Bridge, over Archway Road, the main A1, which gives its name to the area. It’s dubbed Suicide Bridge and it’s not hard to see why.
The bench, on which Barbara sits overlooking the city skyline is on Parliament Hill, the southern stretch of Hampstead Heath above Gospel Oak.
Below, in Gospel Oak itself, the ‘Braxton House Estate’ is Waxham, on Mansfield Road, NW3, opposite Estelle Road, where Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) sees smitten schoolboy Steven (Andrew Simpson). A little to the east, Mansfield Road becomes Gordon Hill Road and here you’ll find the railway bridge under which the pair furtively meet, alongside Gospel Oak Station. It’s alongside the deco apartment block featured in Venus, for which Peter O’Toole received his 2006 Oscar nomination.
When things are getting out of hand, Sheba cycles furiously north on Highgate Road by Carkers Lane on her way to see Steven at his home in Gospel Oak.
The school at which Sheba and Barbara teach is Islington Arts and Media School, Turle Road, off Tollington Park, Crouch End N4. It’s undergone extensive remodeling since the film was made.
Sheba seems to be doing extremely well for a young teacher, living in the heart of celeb central, Belsize Park, the desirable neighbourhood between the muso-Gothiness of Camden Town and the upscale villagey enclave of Hampstead. Her home is 20 Upper Park Road, off Haverstock Hill.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the bar she goes to with confidante Barbara and spills the beans about her affair is the Haverstock, the pub at the end of Upper Park Road (since reborn as Ballaro restaurant), as it appears to be.
Another location not in the area is the Shepherdess Cafe, 221 City Road, where Sheba and Barbara lunch with a work colleague. Incidentally, the cafe is alongside the famous Eagle pub, which is mentioned in the traditional children’s nursery rhyme: ‘Up and down the city road, in and out of the Eagle. That’s the way the money goes. Pop goes the Weasel’. The Eagle was the pub in which local tailors once pawned (or ‘popped’) their tailors’ irons (or ‘weasels’) behind the bar until payday.
Barbara Covett herself lives a few minutes north of Archway Bridge, at 2 Wembury Road, off Archway Road in Highgate.