Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Case for Hollywood History by Francine Prose | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

"Until recently, I’d assumed it was understood that Hollywood would emphasize the 'story' aspects of history, and that a distortion of real events, on screen, would hardly constitute a lie. Except for those cases in which I felt that a film was being used as propaganda—Zero Dark Thirty comes to mind—I’d never been particularly disturbed, and certainly not surprised, to learn that a feature film had altered a real event so as to ramp up the drama. At what point, I wonder, did we start expecting films to tell the truth about the past? And won’t we be in trouble if we do?

The films of the '70's represented a major shift in style for mainstream films towards a more realistic portrayal of everyday reality. The idea was to better reflect the reality of most moviegoers rather than present an escape. Thus, movies came to be seen as more "real". Compare nearly any film from 1952 with any film from 1972. The former are not even attempting to represent reality, but a 'story' reality and the viewer knows this. Films today trade on this almost hyper-reality, trying to convince the viewer that they are watching in effect a "newsreel" and not a fictional narrative. THIS is the problem when your "story" is supposed to be something that really happened and the movie wants you to believe it really happened but it DID NOT HAPPEN. That's usually called "lying". The thing is, this is NOT a big problem to correct. Just change the names of the people involved, move the locale, switch the genders, do SOMETHING CREATIVE and stop trying to sell tickets "based on true events" that never happened.

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