How do you devise an atmosphere as eerie as the one in “The Descent” or as glorious as in “Quantum of Solace” without becoming insolvent? You go to Estonia.
There are quotations about everything, it seems, including caves.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek,” said Joseph Campbell, the prominent American mythologist and author of The Power of Myth.
“I’d rather live in a cave with a view of a palace than live in a palace with a view of a cave,” said Karl Pilkington, the English actor, television presenter, author, comedian, and radio producer.
And yet another is from Stephen Gardiner, a 16th-century English bishop and politician during the Reformation, who said mystically: “The frame of the cave leads to the frame of man.”
No matter which statement suggests the theme you want to promote, there’s a story that accompanies it. No surprise, then, that caves have always yielded profound symbols and metaphors for unique circumstances and have become sought-after places to add symbolic resonance to movie scenes. That certainly rings true with horror fans, particularly those who wanted to add meaning to “Beast from Haunted Cave,” the gangster/horror flick from 1959. Caves can, in fact, create pretty much any vibe you need, even erotic ones. Google “Game of Thrones Jon Snow and Ygritte cave scene,” and you are likely to agree.
Although “Game of Thrones” producers could probably afford any location they fancied, there are productions with tighter budgets but equally ambitious stories. So how do you devise an atmosphere as eerie as the one in “The Descent” or as glorious as in “Quantum of Solace” without becoming insolvent? You go to Estonia. Where else? If you are seeking a two-level site with a secret natural basement on every step, or if you just need to shoot a cave scene (or if you actually enjoy claustrophobia), Estonia has the caves.
You can begin the journey at Helme caves, also known as “the gateway to Hell” (Wes Craven, are you paying attention?). The seven Helme caves, which are as creepy as you will find, were once interlinked. But while some of the more sinister-looking caves at the site have collapsed, there are plenty more of them for any location demand.
Another real treasure lies in southeastern Estonia, a 3-hour drive (including stops at roadhouses) from the capital, Tallinn. We doubt you have ever seen anything like the Piusa Caves, and neither has your audience. They have a strange and interesting history, as they are manmade, occurring during excavations for glass sand from the 1920s to the 1960s. Piusa is actually a labyrinth of corridors hollowed out of the sandstone, but what is even more striking is that these caves provide the largest bat hibernation area in all of the Baltic States. So it might well be time for Chris Nolan to start planning his next masterpiece: “Batman Sleeps.”
Honestly, any producer requiring caves will find the ideal ones in Estonia. They are unique, come in all shapes and sizes, and most are easily accessible. Oh, and do not overlook the generous cash-rebate system Estonia is so proud of and which you are sure to find truly appealing.