Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s 2017 war film, premiered in the Netherlands last week. The movie will probably mean a boost to Dunkirk-tourism, says Professor of Cultural Heritage Stijn Reijnders (Erasmus History department). ‘Top actors, a well-known director: I would say Dunkirk will start attracting more tourists.’
Reijnders studies film tourism, which is a very real phenomenon. When the EenVandaag crew interviews him on an Amsterdam bench that features in The Fault in Our Stars, they meet a Mexican family who travelled all the way to the Netherlands especially for this bench. James Bond-fans take their camera and visit all the places he did. And tourism in New Zealand doubled after the Lord of the Rings-trilogy. ‘Before those movies, people thought of New Zealand as a misty island with some sheep, rotten kiwis, and a few rocks’, says Reijnders. ‘Now people see it as a beautiful pure landscape, almost prehistoric, that you have to see.’
The world through popular culture
Last year, Reijnders was a guest in Studio Erasmus during the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). There he elaborated on the topic of film tourism. ‘Our image of the world is increasingly formed by popular culture. Movies, television, novels: they have become such an important way to imagine the world that people want to see that world for themselves, to see if it’s really like that. And due to the images that come from popular culture certain places feel familiar. When someone first visits Manhattan, he feels like he has already been there. Also people really start loving the places they’ve seen on TV or read about.’
Dunkirk and Urk
Dunkirk portrays the evacuation during World War II, when the Allied soldiers were evacuated from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk in the north of France. Most probably the area will experience an increase in tourism, Reijnders predicts. For those who can’t be bothered to go there: some of the scenes that take place on the water were actually filmed in the Netherlands, in a little town called Urk. Go visit before it’s swamped with tourists!
More about film tourism? Watch this interview with Stijn Reijnders at Studio Erasmus.