Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Films as history

"How much obligation lies on makers of historical films to keep to the historical record? How much fiction is permissible within the representation of fact? No cinematic description of the past, and certainly not one designed for a mass audience, could be expected to stay within the boundary of the known. The pace of fiction cannot be the pace of life. Complexities of chronology will need reduction. Buildings and landscapes that contained historical events have disappeared. Dialogue must be invented.
Characterisation may need to be simplified. But elaboration and modification are one thing: perversion of fact is another.”

In the film section of the Channel 4 website they have 15,000 film reviews, and a few, mostly written by historians, assessing some old favourites on the basis of their accuracy and giving them scores from 0 (truly terrible) to 10 (absolutely historically accurate):
El Cid (1961): 6
Witchfinder General (1968): 3
Citizen Kane (1941): 5
Cromwell (1970): 4
Waterloo (1970): 7
Charge of the Light Brigade (1969): 6
Zulu Dawn (1979): 5
Sink the Bismarck (1960): 8
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943): 9
U-571 (2000): 2
Saving Private Ryan (1998): 9
Scandal (1989): 7
Restoration (1995): 6

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