This 1987 movie was the fifteenth in the James Bond series and the first to feature Timothy Dalton as the British secret service ace. The Living Daylights co-starred Maryam d’Abo as his love interest and Vienna as the setting for parts of the film.
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Bond at the opera (sort of)
The opening parts of the movie take place in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. At the time, Slovakia was still part of Czechoslovakia and communist, so they actually filmed the Bratislavan sequences in Vienna.
The first scenes feature a classical concert where Bond and a colleague await the defection during the interval of Russian general Georgi Koskov.
The Volksoper and Sofiensäle
The outside shots of the Bratislavan concert hall actually show the Volksoper (lit. People’s Opera House) in Vienna. The inside shots of the concert itself are not the Volksoper, but Vienna’s Sofiensäle.
These shots remain a valuable historical record, since the Sofiensäle burnt down in 2001. It has since been rebuilt and (at the time of writing) houses apartments, a hotel, a fitness centre, a restaurant and an event venue, for example.
Bond eventually makes away with Koskov, but not before injuring a female cellist who seemingly attempted to shoot the fleeing general. A gas pipeline transports the latter to Vienna, where he emerges in the shadow of the city’s gasometers.
(One of the Viennese gasometers)
These giant gas storage containers were built at the end of the 19th century but fell into disuse. After a brief period of excitement hosting various raves, the four remaining tanks were transformed in an urban regeneration program at the turn of the millennium.
The containers kept their outer façade, but saw their insides converted into a modern shopping center, with a cinema, concert venue, apartments, etc..
General Koskov eventually transfers from the gas pipes to a Harrier jet, which makes a vertical take off, emerging out of the top of one of the gasometers.
Back to the Volksoper and Sofiensäle
A little later in the film, Bond returns to Bratislava to learn more of the cellist (Kara: the love interest) who he shot during Koskov’s escape. Again, we see the Volksoper from the outside and the Sofiensäle on the inside.
(The Volksoper again, as you can probably guess from the writing)
After the performance, Bond follows the cellist onto a tram, a scene which takes place in Gersthof/Währing, Vienna. It’s not a part of the town you’d normally visit as a tourist.
Bond befriends and then escapes with the girl to Austria, making novel use of a cello case to evade the chasing Slovakian bad guys, and “ski” down the snow-covered mountain slopes and across the Austrian border.
Never believe anything you see in the films.
That border chase was filmed in Carinthia in southern Austria. The border between Bratislava and Austria is more like the proverbial pancake: there are no real mountains anywhere near it!
A tour of Vienna
Safely in Vienna, Bond shows Kara around in a sequence that takes in a horse and carriage ride between the art and natural history museums, a trip through the park behind Schönbrunn Palace (complete with orchestra and waltzing couples), and a visit to Palais Schwarzenberg.
(The Art History Museum at night)
The pair eventually end up in the Prater – Vienna’s large amusement park – where Bond wins a large cuddly toy on the shooting range and takes Kara for a ride on the giant ferris wheel. He arranges for the wheel to stop at the top, giving him an opportune romantic moment to “kiss the girl.”
That’s pretty much the last we see of Vienna in the film. The action soon moves on to Tangiers and other locations, though the credits at the end of the movie roll past to a backdrop of Schönbrunn Palace.