‘Dunkirk’ is a historical war epic that takes audiences to a crucial moment in World War II. Helmed by Christopher Nolan with stunning attention to detail, the film follows a particular mission, known as Operation Dynamo, to evacuate (hundreds of) thousands of trapped Allied soldiers from the French coast. Following the action from land, sea, and air, the film tells a remarkable story that is made all the more hard-hitting by the incredible cinematography and soundtrack. The infrequency of dialogue in the film only reinforces just how powerful its visuals are, and we’ve got the lowdown on all the filming locations that were used to bring ‘Dunkirk’ to life. Let’s dive in!
Dunkirk Filming Locations
The filming of ‘Dunkirk’ was a remarkable feat, and lensing was undertaken at the location where the actual events took place during World War II. Thus, the crew spent a significant time filming in France and also in England and the Netherlands. Studio filming and some on-location shooting were also undertaken state-side in California.
Nearly 60 ships were reportedly reconditioned and made to accurately mimic specific warships of the time to be used for filming. Detailed props and real as well as scale-model planes were also used extensively to minimize the use of CGI. Principal photography started on May 23, 2016, and wrapped up on September 2, 2016. Let’s take a closer look at the specific locations that were used in piecing together the war epic!
Dunkerque, the film’s namesake, as well as the actual location where the evacuation depicted in the movie took place, is a commune in northern France, about 6 miles from the Belgian border. The crew spent a significant time recreating the event at the Plage de Malo-les-Bains (beach) in Dunkerque (Dunkirk), with additional shots depicting Operation Dynamo lensed at La dune Dewulf France, a natural reserve in the nearby commune of Leffrinckoucke.
Multiple streets in the town area of Dunkerque (formerly Malo-les-Bains) also provided authentic-looking backdrops. Specifically, the production team filmed some powerful scenes at Rue Belle Rade, Rue des Fusillés, and Rue de la Colline.
There are also scenes depicting The Mole, an 8-foot-wide and half-mile-long breakwater wall extending off the beach and into the sea, which is used as a dock to evacuate over 300,000 Allied troops. These were also shot on the actual historic location, known as the East Mole, which was partly rebuilt for the purposes of filming and then taken apart again to return it to its original look.
The historic Weymouth Harbour in the seaside town of Weymouth in Dorset, southern England, was used for filming multiple scenes, specifically in the Custom House Quay. The Weymouth Harbourmaster’s office stood in for the Weymouth Herald newspaper office in the film. Shots featuring large-scale radio-controlled aircrafts crashing into the English Channel were also seemingly lensed nearby.
Other Locations in England
A few other locations in the English county of Dorset also served as filming locations. This includes the Swanage railway station on Station Road in the town of Swanage. The nearby Harman’s Cross railway station in the village of Harman’s Cross was also used for filming a few scenes.
Furthermore, ‘Dunkirk’ also has a panoramic shot of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. The Solent Airport (formerly HMS Daedalus), located at Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, was also used to lens some spectacular sequences involving regular and model aircrafts.
The town of Urk in the Flevoland province of the Netherlands reportedly hosted the production crew for a period as well. The nearby IJsselmeer, also known as Lake IJssel, was used to film dramatic scenes depicting a vintage motor yacht frantically evacuating troops. The lake, which borders the Flevoland, North-Holland, and Friesland provinces, was seemingly used to avoid complications arising from changing tides while filming on the sea at Dunkerque.
Los Angeles County, California
Universal Pictures’ Falls Lake studio, located on Kirk Douglas Drive in North Hollywood, was used for setting up scenes depicting sinking ships and planes. The Warner Brothers Burbank Studios, situated at 4000 Warner Boulevard in nearby Burbank, also hosted the ‘Dunkirk’ production crew, likely for bringing some complex scenes to life for which studio facilities were essential.
The final stages of the daunting production schedule seemingly took place on a cliffside of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in southwest Los Angeles County. The nearby Point Vicente Interpretive Center at 31501 Palos Verdes Drive West also served as a filming site for the explosion and gunfire scenes.
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