7 biography-inspired TV series and films shot in Vilnius
Quite a few motion pictures inspired by extraordinary biographies were shot in Vilnius. From 19th-century emperors to celebrated artists and even controversial personalities – the dramas, crimes, and past events of various historical periods that shaped today’s world came back to life on the streets of the Lithuanian capital. The Vilnius Film Office recommends seven TV series and films that depict real and fictional twists and turns in the lives of remarkable historical characters.
Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was a Swedish artist and mystic, considered one of the abstract art pioneers in the Western world and one of the first feminists. As many as 1 300 pieces of her artwork were almost unknown to the world for many decades. The mysterious, philosophical, and spiritist paintings of the artist still raise many questions.
The biopic “Hilma” was directed by Hollywood-based Lasse Hallström, who has been nominated for 3 “Oscars”. According to Hallström, “Hilma” is a story about the relentless search for truth, about humanity and the universe, back in the days when rules were written by men. “My goal was to make the audience fully experience the obstacles and hardships she faced,” the director said.
“Hilma” was shot in 2021 in various locations of the Lithuanian capital, including Kūdrų Park, Pilies, Latako, Bokšto, Šventosios Dvasios and Kaštonų streets, Vilnius City Hall, Vilnius University, the premises of the Lithuanian Writers’ Union, the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore and Vilnius Railway Station.
“Clark” is a Swedish series based on the biography of one of the most controversial characters in modern Swedish history, Clark Olofsson. The incredible story of one of the first “celebrity gangsters” was directed by Hans U.J. Akerlund and starred the famous Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard.
The legendary Swedish gangster began his criminal career with petty theft in the 1960s before serving a prison sentence for attempted murder. In prison, Clark befriended another criminal, Jan Erik Olson, with whom, a little later, he robbed Stockholm’s biggest bank.
The robbery was rather unusual. The kidnappers and the bank’s employees quickly befriended each other, and soon they were sharing experiences and stories and even playing games. When the hostages were released, none testified in court against their captors, instead, they began collecting money for their defense. It was this crime that gave rise to the term “Stockholm Syndrome”.
In “Clark” one will recognize the Užupis neighborhood, Vilnius Town Hall Square, Lukiškių Prison, Etmonų, and Arklių Streets. Odminių Square played a special role – it became the famous Normalmstorg Square, where police crews watched the bank during the robbery.
The Vilnius cinema office invites you to take a walk along the tourist route inspired by the series.
“Catherine the Great”
The series depicts the life of the Russian Empress Catherine II from 1764 until her death in 1796, with a focus on the later years of the Empress’es reign and her relationship with Grigory Potemkin. Catherine the Great was played by the famous British actress Hellen Mirren, winner of “Oscar” and two Golden Globes.
The HBO and Sky TV series “Catherine the Great” was shot in various locations in Vilnius, including the Lithuanian Writers’ Union, Vilnius City Hall, Trakių Vokės Manor and Vilnius University Library which for this project was turned into the 18th-19th century council meeting room.
“Sisi” is a costume drama that tells the coming-of-age story of Empress Elizabeth of Austria. The film was hugely popular in Germany, Italy, Austria, France, Holland, and Hungary. Produced by Story House Pictures GmbH, the picture touches upon a number of timeless topics: it follows the life of Empress Elizabeth and, while incorporating some of her biography facts, delves into the themes of love, duty, freedom, and family, as well as the complex choices women at that time had to make. The Empress Sisi, once widely considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Europe is played by Swiss actress Dominique Devenport.
“Sisi” was shot in various locations in Lithuania which serve as a backdrop for important battle, wedding, baptism, and rebellion scenes from all three seasons. Residents of Vilnius will certainly recognize various neighborhoods and prominent buildings of the Lithuanian capital – from the central campus of Vilnius University, the Lithuanian National Philharmonic to the Lithuanian Writers’ Union or Belmontas manor.
Vilnius cinema office invites you to discover the Austria of the 19th century in Vilnius and explore the tourist route inspired by the series.
“The Playlist” tells the true story of how the Swedish music platform Spotify came to be. Entrepreneurs Daniel Ekas and Martin Lorentzon revolutionized the music industry by launching a free and legal music platform. ”The Playlist” blends true events with fiction, weaving a compelling and sophisticated narrative.
Few people know that the series, which ran on Netflix last year, was shot in Vilnius offices, cinema pavilions, and modern skyscrapers; one of them represent a New York recording studio. Various professionals from Lithuania also contributed a lot to the making of the series, for example, technical props engineers, who made props for the show and helped set up the programmers’ office that often appears in the story.
“The Poet” is another impressive biography-inspired picture shot in Vilnius. Directed by Vytautas V. Landsbergis and Giedrius Tamosevičius, the film is based on real stories of Lithuanian partisans and other post-war personalities, and it slowly guides us through the life of the poet Kostas Kubilinskas. The film highlights the consequences of freedom, sacrifice and difficult yet inevitable choices. In 2023 the film was nominated in 9 categories in the “Silver Crane” awards, and Donatas Želvys, who played the protagonist, was voted the best actor of the year.
“The Poet” was shot in 2021 in the premises of the Lithuanian Writers’ Union, V.M. Putinas memorial apartment museum, Aguonų Street, St. Jurgis, J. Basanavičius Streets and in the Old Theater of Vilnius.
„Blood, Sex and Royalty“
This Netflix series is a modern take on the 16th-century love story between the English monarchs Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The queen’s dramatic life and the circumstances of her death made her a prominent figure in the English Reformation movement. Supposedly unable to produce a male heir for the king, she was accused of incest and treason and sentenced to death.
The drama-documentary series is based on the comments of history experts and reveals many secrets of the royal couple’s life.
In 2022, the team of filmmakers determined to bring onscreen this episode of English history came to work in the Royal Palace in Vilnius – here Henry VIII’s office, Anne Boleyn’s bedroom, and the royal reception hall were beautifully recreated. Some of the scenes were also shot in Trakai Castle.
Audriaus Solomino nuotr.