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Hill Top Ruin

Hill Top RuinThe Princess Bride movie has a very memorable scene where Wesley and Inigo fight a duel amongst ruins at the top of The Cliffs of Insanity. Dragonflies7033 reconstructed the scene in 28mm scale for our Movie Set Competition which ran in the summer of 2007.

I watched the "Chatty Duelists" scene dozens of times to make sure all the bits were in the right place, the right size, and the right angles etc. The entire structure is foam that was sculpted with a wood burner that had a spade shaped tip. I wish I could say there is a trick to it, but there isn't; it's just a time intensive and painstaking process carving all the lines without melting huge dents of foam.

As you can probably guess from the lines still showing on the image below, I started by drawing the locations of the various pieces on the set, onto a sheet of polystyrene. The set is never shown from above, nor all in a single shot, so I had to piece the lay of the land together by using spatial relationships and reference points. I watched the duel scene a dozen times to get this right, and held this base up to the TV on pause to make sure the spacing was correct.

I then began to cut the various features from foam and place them on the base while making reference to the film. The image below shows the piece in this state i.e. before I began carving stone patterns and adding smaller details.

Hill Top Ruin

With the basic shapes in place it was time to set about carving the stone patterns. However this was the middle of a hot Indianna summer and the thought of spending hours working with a pyrography tool was very unappealing. I waited a couple of days in hope of a cooler spell but in the end I just had to grin and bear it.

I then added a few 'loose' stones however I can't claim that their placement is accurate because, after watching the scene a few more times, I became aware that these stones aren't always in the same place! They moved in between takes!

Hill Top Ruin

Sand was now added to the floor areas and everything was painted grey but unfortunately it didn't work out as expected. The problem was that I ran out of wash and when I mixed a second batch, I made it thicker than the first and it filled in the gaps between the grains of sand. I solved the problem by adding a fresh layer of sand but in the process I decided that I actually liked the contrast between the grey stone and the natural colour of the sand and decided not to paint it.

The final step was therefore to add the plants - lime green kitchen sponge that I ran through a blender to chop it up. I glued the plants on with white glue, and dabbed watery paints of brown and olive to tone down their vibrant colour.

Hill Top Ruin

Finally, a bit of trivia: after watching the scene dozens of times, I noticed an anomaly. Pay close attention to the part where Wesley throws his sword into the tuft of weeds before his gymnastics on the bar. There is a pillar of stone between him and that tuft of weeds. He could not have made that throw.

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