Monday, 6 October 2008

Portmeirion vs. Swakopmund

(Portmeirion, location for The Prisoner, 1967)

(Swakopmund, location for The Prisoner, 2009)

The remake of the Prisoner continues apace out in Namibia (see also The Unmutual for news; my take here), It is headed for ITV next year, with Ian McKellen as Number 2 and Jim Caviezel as Number 6. One of the things that differentiates the remake from the 1967 original is that we already know where it is being filmed, in Swakopmund, Namibia. This is something of a contrast with the original series. It was apparently something of a mystery to many, when The Prisoner first aired, where on earth they could have filmed the action. When the final episode, "Fall Out", aired in 1968, it began with the on-screen announcement that the series had been filmed on location in Portmeirion, North Wales, by permission of Mr (later Sir) Clough Williams-Ellis. Indeed, the hasty resolution of that mystery lead many to think that the rest of the episode would unravel other mysteries, an expectation that some felt was unfulfilled.

One of the obvious charms of the original series is Portmeirion, as well as the Portmeirion-inspired enhancements to the village that they recreated in the studio, so it will be interesting to see whether the new location, Swakopmund, can live up to its predecessor. Portmeirion is one of my favourite places, and we were going on family holidays there before I had even seen The Prisoner (I first caught it on the 1984 Channel 4 repeats), so it is unlikely that Swakopmund will ever rival Portmeirion in my affections. Nevertheless, to go to google images on Swakopmund reveals an amazing architecture that does have some echoes of the magic of Portmeirion, and it is easy to see why it was chosen for the location filming. I must admit that I am intrigued. AMC's website on the remake offers some tantalizing insights into the new series, video diaries, blogs and the like, but they are being careful to point the camera away from what we will see on screen.

Now in the original, Number 6 is imprisoned in "the village", of course, and not in Portmeirion, but the other major location is London, seen at the beginning of almost every episode and again at more length in other episodes like "Many Happy Returns" and "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling". There is no word yet on whether Caviezel's Prisoner will begin in London. Caviezel himself is American, so perhaps not. I would love to see London retained as the Prisoner's home, though.

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