Films: Not Always Historically Accurate

         While viewing films from other countries, one can learn a great deal about that particular country, but often the films do not always depict the history of the country accurately. Quite often films are made by film makers are trying to make a statement and are not always truthful about the events that occurred. Censorship and culture at the time a film is made can also change the way a film is produced.

         When a film maker is making a film, he or she often has to follow the current believes of the people who will be viewing the film and try not to offend them. This can often be a very difficult matter especially for the film makers of the first half of the 1900’s. In the Charlie Chaplin 1925 film Gold Rush, the film makers have the saloon girls in costumes that are very unrealistic for saloon girls of the time period that is being portrayed. The dresses are long, well below the knee, and cover much more than would be expected by most. By doing this, the film maker inaccurately depicts people and the culture of the time period and could lead the viewers believe that saloon girls were really not that bad.

         Another reason it can be difficult to get correct perceptions of the time period is because film makers could make films about how they believe things should be and not how they really are. If a film maker disagrees with an action that the government takes, he or she may make a very one-sided film showing that the government is out to do the citizens harm. During the Great Depression and after World War II, many film makers were unhappy with the government policies of the time and became supporters of the Communists. The government thought that the film makers were making pro-Communist films to try and get American citizens to follow Communism instead of the United States government. By viewing antigovernment films, a viewer is only getting one side of a story that they should really be getting all sides of. When viewed in the days of much suffering, these so-called “anti-American” films could lead some people believe that the government during the Great Depression and shortly thereafter was not trying to make life better for the American people. These films also give an incorrect version of American history, which could lead some people who know little about United States history to believe something other than the truth.

         Even though films are not always accurate in the manner in which they perceive an event, they can still provide much information about a countries history and culture. The 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein and Giogori Alkesandrov, portrays the former Soviet Government as brutal killers that killed innocent citizens and treated their military poorly. The film made the government that was in control when the film was made look like saviors. This film accurately depicts the citizens’ disdain of their government but can also lead others to believe that the events that took place in the film actually happened in real life.

         Films can be accurate about historic events but may not necessarily give completely accurate information about the events. According to the Cook textbook and discussion in class, for the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Penn, the film makers had to change some of the events that actually occurred because the audience of the time was not ready to face that Clyde was bisexual so they just made him to where he could not have sex. While this is an inaccurate depiction, it is not a historically important aspect of the film.

         It is important for film watchers to remember that most films are not totally accurate in the manner in which they portray many of the events that have occurred. Film makers may have a misconception of actual events, change outcomes to provide the viewer with a happier ending since most people prefer a happy ending to a sad or tragic one, or a film maker can change an ending just because that is what he or she wants to do. Also, many films are not about history at all; they are just for entertainment. While films can accurately depict many historical aspects, it is always good to remember that films are for enjoyment and viewers should not take most films very seriously. If a viewer wonders about the accuracy of a film, he or she should do research on the event or events before believing the events that have occurred in the film.

Ashley Wilson

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