A Tour of Sofia in “Hitman” Movie Frames

03.06.2012 § 1 Comment

The not-terribly-brilliant 2007 movie treatment of the video game series Hitman starring Timothy Olyphant and directed by Xavier Gens is notable for being shot primarily in Sofia. The Bulgarian capital is standing in for Moscow, but, as a pedantic and shrewd movie-goer, I have extracted a few screenshots that are definitive Sofia landmarks.

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Built between 1904 and 1912, the Alexander Nevsky cathedral is a temple-monument to the fallen Russian soldiers of the war of 1878 in which Bulgaria was liberated. It’s named after a Russian saint, St. Alexander of Neva, and it’s the foremost church of Bulgaria. Being shot at by a helicopter in the frame above, the cathedral is standing in for a Moscow cathedral, which is downright silly since Russian Orthodox architecture is very different. Bulgarian temples tend to have semicircular domes and simple crosses while Russian ones have conical or teardrop-shaped domes and towers, and the Russian cross is more complex. Sofia has a Russian Orthodox church, “St Nicholas the Miracle-Maker” (shown below), which exhibits the Russian cross and is also a great city landmark.

St. Alexander Nevsky cathedral

The Russian church in Sofia

National Assembly and Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

A shot in the movie from Alexander Nevski square shows the back of the National Assembly building on the left and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences building on the right. Built in the 1880’s the National Assembly building is the seat of Bulgaria’s parliament and bears Bulgaria’s motto: “Unity yields strength”. Its counterpoint was built in 1925-1929 as headquarters of the expanding Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

The National Assembly building

The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences headquarters

Monument to Tzar Liberator

Facing the building of the National Assembly is the monument to Alexander II of Russia, known as Tzar Liberator. Although he was the ruler of Russia when Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman dominion in 1878, his title of “Liberator” actually refers to him having freed the Russian serfs in 1861.

Monument to Tzar Liberator

The four buildings above form the most recognizable central part of the city of Sofia, on a stretch paved in yellow bricks which are iconic in their own right. A gift to Knyaz Ferdinand from the Austro-Hungarian emperor, the bricks were cast in Budapest and have been used to pave four major Sofia streets for over a century.

A vintage postcard showing the BAS building (left), Alexander Nevski cathedral (back), the National Assembly building (right) and the monument to Tzar Liberator (fore).
Source: lostbulgaria.com

Sveta Nedelya Church

Agent 47 is hanging out on a balcony with another Bulgarian-style church behind him. This one is Sveta Nedelya, originally built in the mid-1860’s. The original building was almost completely destroyed in a Communist bombing on April 16, 1925 that intended to kill Tzar Ferdinand. Rebuilt in the 20’s, the church is active to this day, and the bombing was the largest terrorist act in the country to date, claiming close to 200 lives.

St. Nedelya church today.

The caved-in roof of the original building after the bombing of 1925

The National Theatre

Russian mobs are waving Russian flags (red, blue and white) in front of a building that is clearly marked “НАРОДЕН ТЕАТЪР ИВАН ВАЗОВ”, meaning “Ivan Vazov” National Theatre. Named after modern Bulgaria’s first novelist, home to world-class theatre and the site of Valeri Petrov receiving the Sofia award in 2010, the National Theatre was built in 1906 and its brilliant Neo-Classical main stage holds 750.

The National Theatre

The National Theatre interior

Nezavisimost Square

This chase scene takes place in Nezavisimost (Independence) Square, flanked by the Council of Ministers on the right, the statue of St. Sofia (patron saint of the city) in the background and the former Central Department Store building, currently home to designer boutiques and an upscale shopping centre. The row of flags on the left in the second screenshot is led by Bulgaria’s and represents the member-states of NATO.

The statue of St. Sofia

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