While it may not yet have a reputation as famous as Hollywood, Budapest and its surrounding areas have played host to countless high-profile, big-budget movie shoots in the last few years. The city provides a wide range of European street backdrops that could easily pass for Paris, Berlin, or Prague, at a fraction of the cost. Furthermore, the Buda side of the river boasts impressive nature on its doorstep that allows for forest scenes, downtown city shots, and studio shooting all within a short drive’s distance.
The country has clearly cottoned onto this market by incentivizing production even further with tax breaks and a more affordable local talent pool behind the camera. But, film-making isn’t new to Hungary and directors have been telling the popular folk tales and myths of the country’s rich and bloodied history for a long time.
One such example of a homegrown production that makes the most of the surrounding nature and the ease at which permissions for public set-building and shooting permits can be acquired, is 1968’s Stars of Eger (or Egri csillagok in the native Hungarian). The film tells the ever-popular tale of how the Hungarian military attempted to fend off the encroaching Ottoman Empire’s forces in the 1500s. The city of Eger was eventually taken by the Ottomans in 1596, though all that remains of the occupation is an incredibly spindly minaret (the northernmost in Europe!). This film tells the tale of the brave soldiers who defended the city in 1552 and held off the eventual success of the Turkish empire far longer than the other Hungarian strongholds.
The castle that now stands in Eger is surrounded by the tourist trade, main roads, restaurants, and the city itself. To create an authentic experience, the filmmakers reconstructed the ruins of the castle in the countryside outside the capital city. The set has remained and has become a tourist attraction of sorts as Eger still represents the national pride and patriotic heroism associated with the defense of the country during its many occupations. Even though the castle’s remote location requires a short hike in the Pilis hills well outside of the city center, it has been adorned with a plaque and is relatively easy to access for hikers. It still attracts the odd tourist who mistakes it for one of the many genuine castles that litter the Hungarian countryside.