13 February 2024

Copenhagen, Denmark

The American movie ANASTASIA is loosely based on the life story of Anna Anderson. This woman claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna. She allegedly survived the execution of the tsar's family on the night of 16-17 July 1918 and was rescued by a soldier.

Anastasia, 0:50:18
Anna was admitted to a mental hospital in 1920 after a suicide attempt in Berlin. In the asylum rumours started that the unknown woman was Anastasia, which she confirmed. Anna had meetings with relatives and acquaintances of the grand duchess. Some said they recognised her, others claimed it was not her. According to research by Anastasia's uncle, Grand Duke Ernst Louis, Anna was a Polish factory worker.

Only after DNA testing in the 1990s could it be established with certainty that Anna was not Anastasia, which she had maintained until her death in 1984. The mystery had inspired a French play by Marcelle Maurette in 1953. The English translation by Guy Bolton formed the basis for the screenplay of the movie. For the play, set in 1928, the character of General Bounine (Yul Brynner) was added. He helps Anna Anderson (Ingrid Bergman), who is struggling with amnesia, regain her identity. They fall in love with each other and whether Anna is Anastasia or not is left undecided. 

Town hall, Copenhagen, 28 June 2022
The film was entirely shot in England, France and Denmark. Berlin was replaced by Paris. Anna's suicide attempt, for instance, is situated at the Pont Alexandre III. All interior shots were filmed at the British Borehamwood (now Elstree) Studios. The first day of filming was on 21 May 1956 in Copenhagen. The Danish capital was only used for background shots, without actors. Little has changed here in more than 65 years.

Anna and Bounine travel by train to Copenhagen to meet Princess Maria Feodorovna (Helen Hayes), the former Russian empress and grandmother of Anastasia. Born in Denmark and aunt of King Christian I, she had returned to her homeland after the Russian Revolution. In reality, Anna never met the princess who lived in villa Hvidøre; the film chose Knebworth House in England as her home. The railway station Københavns Hovedbanegård where Anna and Bounine arrive is located in the middle of the city at Banegårdspladsen 1. The station building opened in 1911.

Anastasia, 0:49:38
Train station, Copenhagen, 28 June 2022

From the train station, Anna and Bounine go to their hotel by car. When they want to cross Kongens Nytorv ('New King's Square'), they have to wait for a while because a brass band in honour of the king is passing by. Our visit coincided with the start of the Tour de France on 1 July 2022, which explains why there is a yellow jersey on one the of the buildings.

Anastasia, 0:49:45
Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022
Anastasia, 0:50:09
Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022

When the brass band has walked by, they drive on but are suddenly at a different location in the city: Amaliegade facing Fredericiagade, near the royal palace.

Anastasia, 0:50:33
Amaliegade, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022

The next day, Bounine has an appointment at Tivoli Gardens with Baroness Elena von Livenbaum (Martita Hunt) to arrange a meeting with Anna. Images of the amusement park are shown, including the ferris wheel Ballongyngen with gondolas shaped like hot-air balloons. The attraction was opened in 1943, so it was not there in 1928. The town hall can be seen in the background.

Anastasia, 0:51:36
Tivoli, Copenhagen, 28 June 2022

In the park, Tivoli Guard Boys performs, a brass band of boys aged between 9 and 16 dressed in the uniform of the Royal Guard. This tradition has existed since 1844. The parade passes a statue of Hans Christian Lumbye, the first conductor of the Tivoli orchestra. The statue has been moved since the filming but still has a prominent place in the park.

Anastasia, 0:51:41
Tivoli, Copenhagen, 28 June 2022
Anastasia, 0:51:57
Tivoli, Copenhagen, 28 June 2022

Screenshots © 20th Century Fox