Rio On Location: Christ the Redeemer

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World at the Service of Cinema
Photo: Fran Mateus
It is one of the most worldwide famous images of Brazil, and a trademark of the country. Open-armed, the statue protects the city while looking straight at the most beautiful view there is – the Sugarloaf hill, known in Portuguese as the Pão de açúcar. Christ the Redeemer was elected, quite understandably, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Its silhouette is so impressive that movie directors shot it in their Brazilian productions. Movie scenes from different decades are listed below for you to admire the statue’s majestic image from the perspective of movie stars on their real or fictional journeys to the city of wonders.

Now, Voyager (1942)
On board a luxury transatlantic liner headed for Rio, Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis’s character), a rich young lady who is in treatment for her chronic shyness and dependence on a domineering mother, is delighted by the image of Christ the Redeemer and points it out to Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid), the man she loves. She is the author of one of the most interesting phrases ever said about Rio: “is one of the few places that won’t let you down when you see it up close.”.

Notorious (1946)
“We’re almost in Rio”, says the American secret service agent, Devlin, to Alicia Huberman. She looks out the little airplane window and sees the statue of Christ the Redeemer. “How beautiful!”, she answers, taken aback by its splendor.

Visitors from different decades have felt the same visual impact of the statue that struck both Charlotte and Alicia. Ever since its assembly, in 1931, people have become instantly fascinated once they catch sight of the statue atop the Corcovado hill. Over 32 yards tall, standing on top of a nearly 9-yard pedestal, the statue was placed on a peak nearly half a mile high, making it almost impossible for one to stand immune to the greatness of the sight and what it represents.

2012 (2009)
Credits: Columbia Pictures
The world is undergoing a surge of natural disasters. Americans watch on their TV sets as the statue of Christ the Redeemer suffers full deterioration, leading to its collapse from the Corcovado hill, while, at the same time, the Pão de Açúcar is submerged by the raging sea.

But don’t get too worried: luckily, the year of 2012 went by and Mayan apocalypse did not live up to its promise. The statue remains on top of the hill, beautiful and welcoming. Therefore, while we’re all still around, the best anyone of us can do is to live life to the fullest and try our best to be happy. One of the ways to fill a day with joy is to go up the Corcovado hill on a sunny day. If, however, it’s cloudy out, and you’re time in Rio is at a close, my advice is just to go to Corcovado anyway. Remember to take a jacket for the cold and a raincoat, just in case the rain decides to pay a visit. You won’t want to miss the opportunity, and seeing the statue of Christ the Redeemer up close makes up for having to face any kind of weather.


Fast and Furious 5 (2010)
The first appearance the statue makes in the movie is when Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Brian (Paul Walker) arrive in town, looking for Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). After that, the landmark is seen a number of times, shot both in daytime and nighttime. Open-armed, it’s a constant reminder for the spectator that “this is Brazil”, as Toretto says to the FBI agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) while spreading his arms out open-eagle, just like the statue.

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I (2010)
The first image shown of Edward and Bella’s arrival in Rio is that of the statue of Christ. In a stunning 360 o night shot, we first see its face and then, as the camera spins, its whole figure appears on screen. The light coming from the reflectors give the statue and the landscape a unique look.

Rio I (2011) and Rio II (2014)
Credits: Fox Animation
The Corcovado’s astonishing view is appealing not just to mankind. Carlos Saldanha’s first movie depicts Blu and Jewel flying on a paraglide, struck by the breathtaking scenario before them. They come so close to the statue they can nearly touch it. The same scene shows a little girl in a pink dress and a big smile having her picture taken on the deck that overlooks the landscape, at the foot of the statue, in the most classic pose repeated by tourists visiting from around the world: arms wide apart. In the second movie, the blue macaw couple and their group of friends celebrate the New Year right beside the statue.

It is not only the statue of Christ that amazes Blu and Jewel – they are also impressed by the natural beauty and the architecture surrounding them. “Wow. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”, states the bird when he sees the Pão de Açúcar and the Guanabara Bay looking out at the same view as the one visible from the statue of Christ. The scene reminds me of a thing I heard during the elections for the New Seven Wonders of the World, on July 7, 2007. A TV commentator then said that the real Wonder was the geographical surrounding of the statue. I agreed with him. The whole ensemble is composed not only by the Pão de Açúcar and the Botafogo Bay (in front of the statue), but also by the Tijuca Park (behind it), and the view of the Maracanã Stadium (to its left). This is what we can call “The view” of Brazil and of Rio – one that we can never spend too much time admiring.

CSI – Miami (Chapter 1, Season 5)
Credits: CBS
I must confess that, even with the great amount of movies that use the image of the statue of Christ for enriching their scenes, it is in a TV series – CSI Miami – that I find the most perfect take shot from up there. In it, Horatio Caine (David Caruso) does something that every other mortal can only dream of doing: he is allowed to stand alone, at sunrise, right before the statue. In the scene he looks straight at the landscape, deep in thought. At a certain point, perhaps remembering his deceased wife, he kneels – but with his back facing Christ! – and prays. The beauty of the scene is priceless!

The most amazing statue in the world was created by the Brazilian duo Heitor da Silva Costa and Carlos Oswaldo, along with the French sculptor, Paul Landowski, who worked on Christ’s hands and head. It weighs more than thirty tons and was sculpted in art déco style; it was made in soapstone and coated in limestone. A chapel was built at its feet, belonging to the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, with a seating capacity for 150 people.

Visiting the scenery fit for cinema: to go up the Corcovado Hill, you can choose between different paths – from the more adventurous ones to the more classical – all provide rich experiences.

- You can take the train at 513, Cosme Velho Street. You must schedule your ride in advance on their website (www.corcovado.org.br). The ride will take you to the foot of the hill in 20 minutes, through the Tijuca Park. On your ride back, take the opportunity to stop by the interesting Art Naïf Museum, right next to the train station.

- A different option is to go by car to the boarding station on Paineiras road. From then, official vans will take the visitors to the turnstiles that give access to the statue (www.paineirascorcovado.com.br);
- If you’re looking for more adventures, you can do as Blu and Jewel and follow them up to the Pedra Bonita Mountain, in Gávea, and go on a paraglide ride. Request further information at your hotel front desk and enjoy the blue macaw experience;

- If you’d like to admire to the view from up high, in an experience similar to the one Ingrid Bergman had in Notorious, my suggestion is a helicopter ride, which will take you face to face with the statue of Christ. The most well known rides are with Helisight (www.helisight.com.br) and one of their boarding stations is in the Morro da Urca, our next destination.

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