The Colombia of "Love in the Time of Cholera"
A Q&A with the new film's executive producer about shooting on location in Cartagena, Colombia.
Directed by Mike Newell, the film adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez's classic novel Love in the Time of Cholera is a rare glimpse into Colombia and, more specifically, the beautiful city of Cartagena. We got the scoop about where certain scenes were shot from executive producer Scott LaStaiti. Love, which stars Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, and Giovanna Mezzogiorno, opens tomorrow.
BT: In the beginning, young Florentino hoists the wrong flag outside the telegraph office. Where was that shot?
SL: We built the telegraph office on top of Baluarte San Lucas (San Lucas Fort). It's on the wall that surrounds the old city and only a few hundred yards away from—and connected to—the Baluarte La Tenaza (Tenaza's Fort). Below Baluarte La Tenaza is Las Bóvedas, once a munitions storage space, and now a popular tourist market.
BT: Were the market scenes filmed in a real market?
SL: This is our "arcade of scribes" location. Currently, the building houses the Governor's Palace, which is on Plaza de Bolívar and adjacent to Palacio de la Inquisición. The Inquisition Palace is where the Spanish conquistadores used to imprison and torture people, and there's now a museum that's open to the public. One of the more prominent cathedrals in Cartagena, Basílica Menor, is also on this square and is open to the public.
BT: Many of the houses in the film were beautiful. Were they private houses, or can people visit them?
SL: The architecture in Cartagena is amazing, and within the old city it's fairly well preserved. We shot in a mixture of private homes and public buildings. The Urbino home, where Juvenal and Fermina lived as a married couple, is a private home in the Manga district (outside of the old walled city). Lorenzo Daza's house, meanwhile, is a government-owned building referred to as Casa del Marqués de Valdehoyos. It's on Calle Factoria, which is one block from Santo Domingo Square (within the walled city). It's open to the public on certain days.
BT: The riverboat scenes were stunning. Do you know if it's possible to take such a journey?
SL: There was a time when this was a very popular mode of travel in Colombia, but unfortunately no such journey exists at this time in Cartagena. Both boats were designed by our production designer, Wolf Kroeger, and built specifically for the film at the Cartagena Naval Shipyard.
BT: Are there other scenes that you think readers would want to re-create?
SL: We shot the poetry competition in the Teatro Heredia, in the old city on Calle Don Sancho—it's open to the public on occasion. The cathedral where we shot Christmas Eve Mass, Juvenal and Fermina's wedding, and the baptism of Juvenal and Fermina's child is the San Pedro Claver Cathedral, in San Pedro Claver Square. The exterior of the college where Florentino picks up America Vicuña (this is also the location for the interior of Fermina's school), is Escuela de Bellas Artes. It's in San Diego Square. The choir at both the funeral and the Christmas Eve Mass, as well as the two opera performers in the La Bohème scene, are students from this school. Directly across the square is the Santa Clara Hotel, arguably the nicest hotel in Cartagena. It used to be the convent that García Márquez wrote about in the book.