There was a news story at the weekend about a history professor being hired to check that certain films stuck to the facts. Why the sudden interest in historical accuracy in Hollywood?

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  • Comment number 59. Posted by Nat Segaloff

    on 3 Nov 2013 16:24

    If you want to be a stickler about it, the only historically accurate movie is a security camera, At one end of this discussion is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which states that merely observing an event changes it; at the other is the intentional bald-faced lie that makes for good drama. A fine book titled "Past Imperfect" edited by Mark C. Carnes (NY: Henry Holt, 1995) examines history through movies. Anent Mark's question, unless a producer hasn't done due diligence by obtaining releases from people portrayed in a true-life film, he must stick to the truth -- which isn't always the same as the facts.

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  • Comment number 58. Posted by strothermartin

    on 3 Nov 2013 10:59

    Can we please leave "The Truth" (whatever that is) to documentaries, and allow the filmmakers to use their craft to nourish us in other ways?

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  • Comment number 57. Posted by AlecFerris

    on 30 Oct 2013 11:14

    Generally I'll let a film off if it's good. Films I'll actually pick on for historical inaccuracy are those that aren't good enough to warrant the liberties they take with actual events. Kingdom of Heaven, for example, which simply regurgitated the propaganda that the Ibelins- the family of Orlando Bloom's character- had commissioned about themselves.

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  • Comment number 56. Posted by edward

    on 27 Oct 2013 19:22

    To put it simply: It doesn't matter at all. It's dramatic license that carries the motion picture industry. Why? because they honestly really haven't got a clue. If it serves the narrative of a script taken from real events, , then so be it. I watched 'The Elephant Man' the other night, and although probably not accurate, it can not capture the reality of the period; the performances and the visuals served up by Lynch, took you to that place.

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  • Comment number 55. Posted by dodrade

    on 26 Oct 2013 18:28

    Making John Nash's hispanic wife into a white woman in A Beautiful Mind was a bit dodgy.

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  • Comment number 54. Posted by goodfella2459

    on 26 Oct 2013 07:11

    I think it depends on how well the film is made. JFK has been mentioned, but I'll also mention Zodiac. This is a heavily intense thriller & an absolutely fascinating film, but Fincher stuck to Graysmith's story which is regarded to be a load of rubbish. Fincher did put "This film is based on case files" at the start, which I do think he should not have done if he was going to stick with Graysmith's BS.

    Still, the film is masterfully done & as inaccurate as it is, it is still a really intense film. Goodfellas is also pretty accurate considering the length of time it spans & how much goes on in it. I believe the most inaccurate thing Scorsese did was combine several characters into one for time, or change names altogether. What events are factually wrong do seem plausible anyway.

    On the other hand, I get really frustrated with a film like From Hell. It is generally well made, but the whole movie is a pack of lies, & the filmmakers/writers try to pass it off as truth. I get annoyed because not only is the royal conspiracy nonsense not true at all, but the same story was done previously (& much better), in Murder By Decree, & while I haven't seen it, I've heard the Jack the Ripper TV movie with Michael Caine also went down the same route. It just makes me wonder why they bother telling the same story without changing anything?

    Murder By Decree is a really great film, & it has some genuinely scary moments, so I can forgive it to a certain extent. With From Hell, it isn't scary, intense, or even really fascinating like Zodiac, & it is also another cliche love story. The last time I watched it, I found it rather irritating that Johnny Depp's character escapes being held captive from the bad guys & runs to save Mary Kelly, with the Depp's running being intercut with the Ripper entering 13 Miller's Court.

    It is a decent enough film, the sets are fantastic, it is visually great, & the murder scenes are also pretty generally good, but I just get frustrated with disappointment that they resorted to just doing the same conspiracy drivel again, & filling it with cliches. If they filled the film with loads of information & details like JFK or Zodiac, I think it would have been much more thought provoking & interesting to watch.

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  • Comment number 53. Posted by drcaligari

    on 25 Oct 2013 23:02

    I've never been too concerned about historical inaccuracies in films, and I'm even a history student. As long as it is not a complete distortion of events to try and twist the perception of it I don't really mind. If you take the Peter Weir film, Gallipoli, which I think is brilliant, there are a lot of historical issues with the events shown in the film. But the film is trying to show the horrors of war by building a friendship as we approach the final scene and how the first world war in particular had a devastating loss of numbers in combat due to backward thinking of many commanders at the time. The commanders in the film may not have been ordering exactly what was done during the actual battle but the film did a fantastic job of depicting the dread soldiers had of going "over the top" and the scandalous amount of lives lost.

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  • Comment number 52. Posted by Anthony Quinn

    on 25 Oct 2013 16:46

    When films start they always say Based on a true story not this is a true story so you know right there that the truth is going to be stretched. I don't think people really care especially if it's a great movie. If it's a bad movie then people tend to pick. For me I don't care if the truth is bent a little but what really annoys me is if the truth is way way out like Braveheart.

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  • Comment number 51. Posted by Tom

    on 25 Oct 2013 13:54

    Mark I couldn't agree with you more. Imagine how boring Richard III would have been if Shakespeare cared about historical accuracy the way we do today.


    Cinemas exist to entertain not to educate, that's what schools are for. Print the legend if it makes for a better film.


    Do I care about historical accuracy in movies? Well given that the Oscar for best film has previously been awarded to The Deer Hunter, Dances with Wolves and Braveheart, surely a better question is do the Oscars actually care?

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  • Comment number 50. Posted by GothamCelt

    on 25 Oct 2013 13:46

    Interesting in that this has produced a noticeable increase in comments receiving a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down recommendation. Normally folk like to make their own contribution and, although reading, tend to ignore other comments.

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