20 May 2011

It's a dark day in Venice, the clouds are rushing past foreshadowing the actions which were about to take place. A huge stone building is standing overlooking the water. The structure itself is gorgeous with a huge dome roof. It has such a presence that it's intimidating. This is the gathering place of the Illuminati. Manfred Powell and Mr Pimms enters the building unsure of what will take place and embarrassed to admit that there has been no progress in finding the Triangle of Light. He enters the building in Venice and then is immediately teleported into a large painted hall in Greenwich, UK, moments later as he begins to walk up the steps to greet the members of the group.

Angelina Jolie's scene in the Painted Hall 

Last month I decided to take advantage of a day off and traveled to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich to do a location visit to the Painted Hall which was used as the Illuminati gathering room from the first Tomb Raider movie. I didn't know what to expect, I didn't know what would happen and I didn't know quite how to get there. I teamed up with one of my friends who was armed with a camera and I was armed with a camcorder, and with a combined three and a half hours of sleep between us, we set off for a strange day out visiting a number of Tomb Raider filming/game locations. 

If you know me you know that one of my favourite past times is to break public transport, one time when I was heading into London to meet a friend, I broke three trains and ended up being 15 minutes late which wasn't so bad considering. Nevertheless me and Lauren headed on a bus to go to the Cutty Sark where we had a rough idea in where we were going because I had looked at a map for a few minutes the night before. As we got on I made a small joke to Lauren about having the ability to break transport with my mind, however we were hopeful and continued to not let this small fact concern us. After ten minutes on the bus, we heard the driver mutter something, we're too far back to hear what was being said, but since no one looked concerned by the announcement and we concluded that we were fine. However there was another announcement about three minutes later which said that the destination had changed. I felt at this moment that Transport For London was pretty much quoting Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and saying "So long and thanks for all the fish". It also reflects quite a lot about public transport in the UK, they're happy to have your money but not so willing to actually get you to your destination on time. 

It stopped about 20 minutes away from the Cutty Sark without any explanation, and the driver seemed to be as bemused as we were. We saw this as a challenge, something from a bad video game that needed a better plot, I know that she would want me to do a Final Fantasy XIII joke right now, but I am stronger and I'm going to rise above it...Also Square Enix is a big company and may send Agent47 after me in the middle of the night since they own the franchise now. Using the bus stations as Checkpoints (yes, like in the Silent Hill movie, where did you think we got it from?) we managed to get to the Old Royal Naval College. 

The Old Royal Naval College is big. It's opposite the National Maratime Museum and is pretty much the same size, except that the museum has a huge garden in front. It was also seriously a gorgeous place. We managed to go on a day when it was sunny and we had blue skies, which made the place seem to glisten. There were several people wandering around, some with pets, some with children. The site is not only a college but sections are open because of it's history and also for filming. As we entered the grounds we found comfort in a nearby map, and yes the site is BIG! Thankfully it was an actual map with clear instructions instead of those illustrated maps with pretty calligraphy handwriting, however it was upside down so they lose points for that. The way to our destination was simple; follow the path down and take the first right and a large sign pointing the way towards the Painted Hall would be right in front of us. I almost got us lost, but I didn't admit this to Lauren at the time since she thought the map was pretty simple and she knew where to go. 

Outside the Painted Hall

Since the day off coincided with the Easter holidays for all the schools, we were a little unsure about how people would be like there. When I was working at the British Museum there was a similar issue, I noticed that on average the staff were more relaxed when they were not surrounded by young kids running around the exhibits, mainly because it wouldn't be the child's fault if anything was broken. When I was in the room with the Crystal Skull there was two kids that was playing hide and seek behind it and thought that it was the perfect hiding place, it was a truly awesome sight.

However since it was hot, there was quite a lot of young children, and it was early in the week, we tried not to disrupt anyone. Also since these kind of buildings have a lot of history and is a tourist attraction they might not take too kindly to two people walking in with a camera and a camcorder. They were probably used to it, but still there's a lot of places where you can't go and film stuff. Aldwych Station was quite difficult because of this, everyone was nice but it was a very tight schedule and it was an escorted tour with about 60 people.

There were a group of caretakers nearby and me and Lauren paused to do some recording and photos of the outside of the building before going in so we would have a range of videos and images to choose from when it came to writing this. Lauren got an awesome photo from the entrance of the Painted Hall overlooking the gardens and the river outside. This caught the attention of one of the caretakers who was walking past, he smiled and said "Wait, I'll pose!" followed by an heroic stance, which was awesome. I did check on the site before hand about photography and filming and I remember reading that it was alright, however reading it online is very different from being there. You also have the thing of even though you know, the people working there might not or they might have changed it and not updated their website. But so far so good, and everyone there seemed really lovely.

Gardens from just outside the Painted Hall

(We did this piece of recording just before we left.)

We then entered the hall, and seriously even the dramatic view of the room in the film does not give this place justice. It has got to be one of the most detailed and stunning halls I have ever seen. There was a worn white and black titled floor which contrasted beautifully with the handpainted walls and ceiling. As we entered there was no one else there apart from us. The couple which were there originally moved on, and we had the chance to do some filming with no distractions or interruptions. There was a document in a frame in front of us as we entered and teal painted wooden stairs to the right leading up to the hall as they did in the filming. The paper did make me think of Alan Wake with the manuscript pages.  The sight almost made me drop the camcorder but the strap around my wrist prevented this from happening. I set the picture quality to the highest possible setting and began to record.

Just around the corner 

 I gingerly made my way up stairs towards the hall, stopped around the fifth step and turned to Lauren to go up with me, it was THAT intimidating.  The hall was not empty, there was a selection of chairs and tables in neat rows, it dawned on me that they must have used these in the TR movie. I'll admit after realizing this, I did quickly look for the throne chairs so I could reenact the "Yes, but who sits here?" scene, but I realized that that would be immature and we might be thrown out for that...Also I couldn't see them. I think the main reason why it looks so much more gorgeous in real life is also because of the lighting. In the film it was cloudy and dark, whereas in the sunlight it looks far more impressive and brilliant. The paintings are more vivid in natural sunlight, just look at some of the images that we got!

The room at the back where we could only barely see in the movie.

Above one of the entrances

In the room at the back, taken from the right hand side

Five minutes later a few more people had joined us in the a hall and a small tour group was going around, I was slightly concerned that we would be asked to stop filming, however everyone was really nice and didn't mind.

There was another set of stairs leading to a small room which was technically part of the hall but slightly cornered off. It appeared in the movie but was behind the people on the thrones. It was as dark in the movie as it was when we went there. We entered the room and was invited with more huge detailed paintings and large wooden table surrounded with leather chairs the impressive display finished with an electric candle light in the center of each of the tables.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you want to go and visit the location yourself I highly recommended going either in the Summer or December. In the winter they have an ice skating area, I went about three years ago and really enjoyed it. If  you go in Summer it's a more relaxed area and less crowded which leads to better photos. Make sure to check out the main website, there's a few areas in the college which are open to the public.

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