14 December 2007

Are film directors dishonest?

“The only reason to make a historical film is because it illuminates the present.”
– Ken Loach, British filmmaker

David Lean’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia’; Ken Loach’s ‘Hidden Agenda’; Steven Spielberg’s ‘Amistad’; Shekhar Kapoor’s ‘Elizabeth’; Ridley Scott’s ‘Kingdom of Heaven’; Mel Gibson’s ‘Apocalypto’… these are a few among many films which have been hounded and criticised by historians for their inaccurate depiction of historical facts.

Why is there so much bad blood over inaccuracies in films that depict historic periods? Do historians feel that film directors are inept, or simply dishonest, in making historical films? How accurate should a historical film be?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do have a question of my own: Should film directors compromise a good story in order to depict historical facts accurately?

My teenage niece (who was looking on as I was writing this blog post) tells me that a good story, any day, is better than rigidly sticking to the facts. She tells me that film directors usually add a twist of their own to make a good film with a good story more appealing to the viewers.

How big a twist should directors add to their films? I guess, to the extent the film does not compromise its entertainment value. After all, we watch films for entertainment, not for lessons in history. There’s no point in making a historically accurate film if the film becomes unwatchable.

More so because film is art. And art is more liberal in its interpretation and presentation.

However, once again, the issue of ‘fact or fiction’ raises its ugly head: Should film directors be allowed to change real (historical) events, or real characters for that matter, in the name of art? And, moreover, should such decisions be justified by them – or by film viewers like us?

No comments: