All the Light We Cannot See
Do you like to travel to places you’ve seen on film?
I certainly do! Here I’ll take you through some “behind-the-scenes” action at the All the Light We Cannot See film location in Villefranche de Rouergue, France. Villefranche is a charming place to visit on its own, but now you’ll be able to spot some areas used in the series.
All the Light We Cannot See Book Adaptation
You may have read or heard about the captivating book, All the Light We Cannot See. But if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it! It’s very poignant and touching.
Fortunately, I found a copy while in France and was able to read it while there.
In 2022, Netflix filmed the four-part series (release date: November, 2023) that is an adaptation of this Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Anthony Doerr.
Where was All the Light We Cannot See Filmed?
All the Light We Cannot See was filmed in several locations. However, one of these locations was Villefranche de Rouergue, France in June and July of 2022.
Luckily, I was staying at my house in Villefranche in summer 2022 and got to see some of the filming. It was so interesting, and the whole town was very excited about it. There was a lot of buzz and activity throughout the village. Subsequently, it was also a much-needed boon to the local economy.
Saint Malo Is a Key Location in All the Light We Cannot See
Saint Malo is a northwestern French city dating back to the first century BCE when it was founded by the Gauls. Later, it was fortified with walls in the 12th century.
During Word War II, as depicted in the book, the Nazis occupied Saint Malo, which led to an attack by the American forces. Saint Malo was bombed, and afterwards it burned for a week. Sadly, most buildings were destroyed, and those that weren’t, were damaged.
Consequently, it took more than 30 years after the war to rebuild the city of Saint Malo. Original stones were used when possible, but the layout of the city was modernized with wider streets and plumbing. They did a really good job of bringing the charm of this ancient city back to life, but it is different than it was before WWII.
Why Was Villefranche de Rouergue Chosen as a Film Location?
In the series, Villefranche represents Saint Malo where Marie-Laure (Aria Mia Loberti) seeks refuge with her Uncle Etienne (Hugh Laurie) during WWII.
Villefranche is a medieval bastide town located in southern France in the Occitanie region, Aveyron department. Founded in 1252, it was also a walled city (until the walls were torn down in the 18th century that is).
Even though the wall is no longer in existence, the original medieval buildings provided a great backdrop for filming and would be similar to what Saint Malo looked like before the war.
That traditional old-world feel of the centre ville is why my husband and I fell in love with it and why we bought a house in Villefranche.
Transformation of Villefranche to Saint Malo
Regrettably, the city center of Villefranche has struggled over the years, and a lot of businesses have left. Things were picking up before the pandemic, but now…
Naturally, this made a lot of ground-floor spaces available for filming purposes.
Many of the buildings around town were transformed with “new” façades to reflect the wartime era. Even a few of the interiors were made over for filming.
Most of these embellishments remain, and they add a bit of flair to the town. Because the village is so old, these pre-40s storefronts don’t seem out of place at all and are quite lovely.
Old Town Villefranche de Rouergue Filming
The film locations are mostly in and around the central church square (Place de Notre Dame) and a nearby square with its original medieval fountain (Place de la Fontaine).
Many of the side streets were also used, though, and all are within the old town center of the village (centre-ville).
Additionally, if you look at the map below (bottom left) you will see the Tourism Office. It is located right by the Aveyron River, if you have any questions about the city.
There were a lot of cool props and special effects used in the filming including tanks and old cars, and directional signs in German. Seeing it all in action was kind of like going on the tram tour of Universal Studios, LOL.
On one hot day, when they were filming in the cathedral square, I bought a refreshing mango smoothie at a bakery and sat inside by the window and watched them. It was a pretty good front row seat.
I was fascinated by the piles of rubble and household furnishings used in the aftermath of the “bombings.” The “rubble” was so realistic but weighed next to nothing.
Not only that, but I wondered, “Where did they get all the old furnishings from? Did they buy them second-hand like I have been doing for my house?” Most of the furniture was damaged as one would expect.
But, I’ll admit that I really, really wished I could have taken that red rug off their hands when they finished filming, LOL. It’s at the bottom of the photo below.
One of the coolest effects was the fire. Unfortunately, I missed the burning of the carousel because I was stuck at home with COVID for a few days. Sigh. Thankfully, I was able to catch a couple of other fire effects at other times.
The burned carousel stayed in place for some time even during the weekly Thursday market held in the cathedral square.
I’m pretty sure that was a requirement for the filming–the Thursday market shall take place no matter what! Afterall, that open air market has been going on for centuries.
Extras & Costumes
Earlier in the year (February and March of 2022) I was in Villefranche, and I remember seeing a call for extras. One of the requirements was natural hair (no dyed or bleached hair allowed). That definitely left me out, LOL. I do like my highlights.
Anyway, it was great that they used a lot of locals in the filming and behind the scenes too.
Seeing everyone in the costumes was also cool. Although, it was odd to see the 40’s characters using their mobile phones or wearing modern sunglasses while on break.
I didn’t envy the guys wearing the soldier uniforms or other heavy costumes because it was quite hot.
Aria Mia Loberti (Marie-Laure)
American, Aria Mia Loberti, is a newcomer and plays the main character, Marie-Laure. One day I got to watch her rehearse a scene walking across the cathedral square. Everyone else was watching too.
Hugh Laurie (Uncle Etienne)
Hugh Laurie plays Marie-Laure’s Uncle Etienne. Unfortunately, I never caught sight of him during filming or around town. Apparently, he was staying in the center not far from my house.
Where in Villefranche is Uncle Etienne’s house?
It’s in the fountain square! In the film, they never showed the fountain, but I could see the wall when they were just outside Etienne’s door.
Mark Ruffalo (Daniel LeBlanc, Marie-Laure’s father)
I never saw Mark Ruffalo in town, but heard that he was very kind to the locals.
Louis Hofmann (Werner)
Before learning about this Netflix series, I was not familiar with Louis Hofmann, a German actor. I think I saw him a time or two during filming but really wasn’t aware of who he was at the time.
Towards the end of our stay in France, my hubby was able to record one of the scenes showing the liberation of Saint Malo. See below.
I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a peak behind the scenes of the All the Light We Cannot See film location in Villefranche de Rouergue, France.
Hubby and I resubscribed to Netflix on November 2, so we could watch the series the day it premiered.
Although it does not do justice to the book (impossible in a 4-part series, I think), I enjoyed watching it. The acting was top notch! Most of all, I loved seeing our beautiful village, Villefranche de Rouergue.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Ready to Explore Villefranche and the Aveyron Department?
Villefranche is a great location as a base to explore not only this charming town but also the surrounding areas in the South of France!
There is so much to see and do without the gobs of tourists.
Don’t forget to share & save for later!
Watch the trailer for All the Light We Cannot See
Until next time…