Re: "The Patriot" - Dinnerbell Mel - Braveheart - etc

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Posted by Tom on June 09, 1999 at 19:12:34:

In Reply to: Re: posted by Champ on June 09, 1999 at 10:27:23:

: What I dont understand is why filmmakers take an interesting character & feel they need to change his o/r hers story, when alot of times the true story is more interesting?

I believe this is because history does not always fit into a nice three part storyline that can be neatly wrapped up in 2-3 hours. I have NEVER seen a movie that stayed true to the facts of history. (If you know of one please let me know.)

Also what is the "true story?" Does getting every costume quibble correct make it historically accurate? So what if "Revolution" got "the look" right? What I am referring to is its overall view of the Revolutionary War which is completly botched. But that is just my opinion. History is subject to all sorts of different interpretations and opinions. How is a filmmaker supposed to shuffle through that minefield?

I recently read an article in the The New York Times editorial page written by an African American historian. This historian was writing about his trip to Gettysburg where he felt strangly unwelcome despite the fact he was the descendent of leaders of the underground railway, runaway Maryland slaves, and a veteran of Valley Forge. He looked upon the spot where Brig. General Armistead fell. Now most white Southerners feel a surge of pride at this spot; but this black American admits he "softly cursed his slavery spreading soul" as well as that of a Colonel Aiken, a South Carolinian who held one of this man's ancestors in bondage, and had also fought at Gettysburg.

Now what if this historian was to write a screenplay for a movie on Gettysburg? What would be the 'true story" to him? Would it be heroic Southern boys fighting for their "rats?" Or would it portray Lee's legendary ANV as something akin to a 19th century version of the Waffen SS? Whose "true story" would it be?

The point I am trying to make is that no one should expect to see the "true story" at the movies. Its simply impossible for an entertainer to do so. History has too many variables for it to fit into a neat two hour package of entertainment. History is best left to the historians to decipher and leave movie making to the artists. Would you want to read a tome on the JFK assasanation written by Oliver Stone? I wouldn't. Nor would I pay to see a movie directed by James McPherson. When I plunk down my $9 for a movie ticket I want to be entertained not lectured too.

Movies can inspire us with stories from the past. If a film generates interest in a certain period and people actually go out and read more about that period then a film has done its service for history.

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