“The radiant afternoon sunlight of early September was so brilliant that it still seemed like summer … ” So begins the Writing on the Wall (also known as the Transylvanian Trilogy) by Hungarian aristocrat Miklós Bánffy, published in the 1930s.
“Banffy’s trilogy is just about as good as any fiction I have ever read …. Although they are very funny, they are deeply serious. They are like Anna Karenina and War and Peace rolled into one. Love, sex, town, country, money, power, beauty, and the pathos of a society which cannot prevent its own destruction–all are here” wrote Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph. Sounds great – what are we waiting for!??!
Banffy’s family home at Bontida has been a centre of heritage conservation training run by the Transylvania Trust, with which we have had some contact over the years, and a week ago I had the pleasure of meeting a filmmaker who had just returned from a location recce in Romania.
Martin is making a mini-series of the trilogy in 2017 and had visited two castles in Transylvania which feature in the stories, newly restituted to their owner families.
While in the care of the Romanian state, Gernyeszeg (the eighteenth-century baroque Teleki Palace described by Bánffy under the name ‘Var-Siklod’) and the Kemény castle at Marosvécs were used a school and hospital respectively. The buildings are therefore in a reasonable condition (well, their roofs are sound, at least!) but are proving something of a challenge to their new/old owners who feel the weight of their responsibilities.
Martin was very struck by their situation and reached out to INTO for advice. Both owners want to reconnect their family homes to the surrounding community and find sustainable sources of income for their upkeep.
His idea is that with appropriate guidance, the film’s art department could restore some of the grounds and a number of the rooms to their former glory as part of the filming process.
We know from experience that filming can result in a huge uplift in visitor numbers so the global distribution of this mini-series could also create a market – film tourism – and much needed income, if the owners can create a sufficiently attractive visitor experience.
I introduced Martin to the National Trust’s Head of Filming and Locations and we discussed how INTO might get involved – perhaps advising on the restoration of the gardens in the first instance and sharing the experience and knowledge of our other Central European members. We look forward to seeing the project develop over the coming years!