Princes Street Gardens to host open-air screening of Edinburgh-set movie The Illusionist

Edinburgh's historic outdoor concert venue is to be turned into a huge open-air cinema this weekend for a special screening of a cinematic love letter to the city.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 12th November 2021, 1:45 pm

Sylvain Chomet, the French filmmaker who relocated to Scotland for five years while an 80-strong team made The Illusionist in Edinburgh, has recorded a special introduction for the screening at the Ross Bandstand.

The creator of Belleville Rendevzous recalls how the team working on the film would regularly emerge from their George Street studios to take photographs of the modern-day city because it had changed so little since the 1950s when the film is set.

The screening will bring the curtain down on Cinescapes, a touring festival that has seen pop-up film screenings staged in locations linked to the movies being shown.

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Tickets for the event, which starts at 6pm, are available on a pay-what-you-want basis, with a suggested donation of £5 per person.

The 2010 film, which was nominated for an Academy Award, follows the adventures of an out-of-work illusionist from Paris to Scotland, where his tricks impress a teenage girl.

Key scenes were set around Edinburgh, including Princes Street, George Street, the Royal Mile, Arthur’s Seat, the Barony Bar on Broughton Street and the Cameo Cinema in Tollcross.

The film was based on an unproduced script written by the French actor, writer and film director Jacques Tati, and was originally intended to be made in Czechoslovakia.

However, it was relocated to Scotland after Chomet fell in love with the city during a visit for the film festival, which host a gala premiere of The Illusionist on its opening night in 2010.

In the introductory film, Chomet says: “The film is very true to the place, the city and the people.

“I was living in Scotland for five years, in the heart of East Lothian, so maybe I know it a bit better than people doing caricatures of the place, such as everybody being ginger or that all the guys are massive with beards.

“When we were making the film in the centre of Edinburgh, we just had to go out into the street and take photographs of the places we wanted in the film, because mostly the city had changed much since 1959, when the film takes place. We were living in the middle of the animated film.

Scenes in The Illusionist were set on Princes Street in 1950s Edinburgh.

"It was supposed to take place in Czechoslovakia, which is very different, but Edinburgh was so inspiring that I decided to have everything happening in Scotland.

"Edinburgh is a character in the film. It’s about magic and I really think there’s something magical about Edinburgh. It is really dreamy and atmospheric.

"There is a hotel in the film, which is the first place I ever stayed in Edinburgh and there are pubs in there where we used to go. It is part of me and part of the team who went to live and work in Scotland.”

Isobel Salamon, co-director of Cinescapes, said: “I love the way The Illusionist shows the buildings, the colours and the magic of our city.

The Illusionist has been hailed as a cinematic love letter to Edinburgh.

“To watch the film in the centre of the city, where a lot of the film is set, will be a really wonderful experience.”

Edinburgh's Old Town is featured in The Illusionist.
The Illusionist was made in Edinburgh after director Sylvain Chomet fell in love with the city.