Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Sunday Question: Historical Films

The Sunday Question is back due to popular involvement last week. And as long as you comment, and I have questions to ask, I'll be ready to go every Sunday!

This Week's Prompt: Historical films are as ingrained in the history of cinema as any genre. Reviewing them is always a question of mental task. The question - Is it possible to actually write a Spoiler for a historical film?

Considerations: On the one hand, of course not, it's history, it already happened, there's not going to be a surprise twist and the US lost the 1980 Winter Olypmics. But on the other hand you can't expect people to know everything about all the events of history. So, should the reviewer be responsible in a review because someone doesn't know about the events? Or is it the task of the filmmakers to create that sense of tension regardless of whether or not people know about the history? Of course, we could always say use Spoiler tags, but that defeats the purpose of the argument :P.

LET THE DEBATE BEGIN!

11 better thoughts:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If it's a major event, then the reviewer should have free reign, but for more obscure historical events, perhaps a little vagueness about the ending. Then again, with the internet, anyone can find the facts, so perhaps no restraint necessary.

Jess said...

Yeah, I'm with Alex, for the major events, no restraint necessary. Usually for the story to be any good as a film, it's about how they got there or what led up to the actual event that makes it meaningful, so the spoilers are surprisingly incredible acting moments (Jamie Foxx in Ray) and discussing those without giving away the movie is important.

MovieNut14 said...

Agreed with Alex. If the events depicted in the movie are well-known, go crazy. If they're lesser-known, be a bit more discreet.

DEZMOND said...

I generally like to know everything about a film I'm going to watch including all the plot details and twists, so I don't really have problem with spoilers, I actually adore them :)

What I do find an interesting problem is when directors choose to change some historical facts in historical movies for narrative purposes and than modern kids who learn about history only through movies learn things in a wrong way.

Tom said...

I'm in agreement with everyone. I think a good example is the upcoming "Secretariat". Personally, I never heard of the horse. So if you simply wrote, "based on a the true story of the horse that won the Triple Crown", this would essentially give away the whole ending for me. Now, hypothetically speaking, if there's a scene where the horse kicks over a gas lamp that burns down a barn and traps a little girl inside, you might want to warn me of such a spoiler. Thanks. P.S. Love the Sunday Question banner!

Alex said...

I think it's the responsibility of the filmmakers to work with the assumption that many viewers will know the main events and ending going in, and to create a movie that is still interesting/well-made/dramatic despite that. If potential viewers don't know the details of a historical incident being put to film, they can choose to not read reviews or to educate themselves prior to seeing it.

For example, I didn't know much about Harvey Milk before I saw the Sean Penn film, but I wanted to have an idea of what he was about so I read up on him a bit beforehand. My boyfriend didn't know much him so when watching it occurrences like the "ice cream defense" trial were a surprise.

So basically I pretty much agree with all of the commenters who came before me!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I like this question very much. Hmm, I think of The Lion in Winter which is easily my favourite historical drama...spoilers would have no effect on its goodness because it's really all about the dialogue and then I think of something like Becket (same time period, same King Henry) the first time I saw it I knew nothing of their history so spoiling that would have made the film lose some of its potency. But as Alex Csaid, some people WANT spoilers and research everything on the internet so it's really neither here nor there. Still, excellent question, though.

Univarn said...

For my point of view I'd say it's completely the reviewers discretion. Personally, I would go ahead and do it for major events like Alex said. Then for films that don't have as much historical support, and are trying to bring it to life, keep the spoilers to a minimum. Certain events, maybe not the outcome of it.

Also, I would say it's a reviewers job to point out historical inaccuracies (as Dezmond pointed out), because people tend to buy what films sell them way too much at face value. An example for this, for me at least, is the film Battle of the Bulge. Many of the liberties taken with the real events actually removed the tension from what really happens.

Simon said...

Inglorious Basterds. Done.

Spoilers for things that are technically historical, but are little to not known. For example, The Soloist was such an obscure subject, the book barely known (to me, anyway).

James R said...

How do you actually determine the "known-ness" of some events, though? It's fair enough saying you shouldn't spoil an obscure event; I'm just not sure where the line of obscurity should necessarily be drawn.

But people's ignorance of well-known historical events can't be discounted either. Personally I'm sure there were people who watched Titanic back in 1997 who would've been appalled had anyone told them about the ship hitting the iceberg and sinking.

Rachel said...

I don't worry about spoiler warnings in historical films either. I'm one to look up what really happened prior to seeing the Hollywood version of it anyway. So I pretty much agree with everyone else.

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