Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History

Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History

Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History

Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History

Synopsis

Film and television have been accepted as having a pervasive influence on how people understand the world. An important aspect of this is the relationship of history and film. The different views of the past created by film, television, and video are only now attracting closer attention from historians, cultural critics, and filmmakers. This volume seeks to advance the critical exploration scholars have recently begun.

Excerpt

"I know, they're the ones where they write with feathers."

--Sam Goldwyn on historical films

The relationship between film and history is less cozily opposed than it used to be. It was a relatively straightforward matter some years ago for historians to criticize the misrepresentations of dramatized versions of the past: a Roman slave would not have talked likeCharlton Heston Ben Hur; the commander of a medieval army would have been rather less civilized thanEisenstein Nevsky; a French peasant girl would scarcely have had the poise ofNathalie Baye in The Return of Martin Guerre. Allowances had to be made for the screen, which of course was much more the creature of historical pressures in the present than academic history was--a delusion still to be found in some corners of the academy. Commerce had to have its due: the stars were there for the box office and so were the plots. The costume department, though, should try to get things right. With "natural colour," "natural sound," and more natural acting too, our expectations rose. A muted, and therefore more vividly present, style of filming offered moments (and extended spells--in both senses) when the "realism" of artificial replication could be both admired and forgotten.

Just as cinema achieved its paradoxical invisibility, history--not uninflu-

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