WHEN IS HISTORY NOT HISTORY? - Content
WHEN IS HISTORY NOT HISTORY?
Tom Hanks in 'Captain Phillips'; Ben Affleck, star/director of 'Argo.'
For Hicksflicks.com, May 16, 2014
The answer to the riddle in the headline above is, of course, "When it's made into a movie."
I understand the annoyance expressed by some filmgoers when a picture they've otherwise enjoyed proves to have taken so many liberties with history that it shouldn't really be claiming to be "based on a true story." Unless "based on" means "far afield from."
On the other hand, if the film is enjoyable enough, I'm willing to forgive these lapses. It's just the way it is. Hollywood is always going to bend real-life events for the sake of entertainment. Even though some of the bending often seems wildly out of proportion or even unnecessary with regard to the drama at hand.
The hubris of filmmakers just means they feel they can tell a better story than the real one. That's not always the case, but nonetheless sometimes makes for a terrific movie.
And if it drives someone to read a book about what really happened, I'm not sure that's a bad thing either.
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Brad Pitt in '12 Years a Slave.'
I will grant that it's sometimes puzzling. The filmmakers themselves will always deny that hubris is the driving force, that they are more interested in getting to the story's essence and evoking an emotional audience reaction. That is no doubt true. But the way they do it really must come from hubris.
Why else would a real-life story as fascinating as "Captain Phillips" (2013) or "12 Years a Slave" (2013) or "Argo" (2013) or "Catch Me If You Can" (2002) or "Rudy" (1993) or "Remember the Titans" (2000) or "A Beautiful Mind" (2001) or "The Amityville Horror" (1970/2005) — and too many gangster and World War II movies to count — have so many diversions from truthful elements, when the truth seems equally fascinating?
Still, a lot of good movies have arisen from this filmmaking hubris. Including all of those named above.