Friday, April 15, 2011

Is historical fiction good or dangerous?

"Historical fiction" is an increasingly popular genre. Furthermore, there are an increasing number of movies which use actual historical events as the background for a great story. But often, due to creative license the movie is not an accurate portrayal of the actual events and can leave audiences, particularly uncritical ones, a misleading impression. There are a whole range of views on how much of a problem there is. I discussed this briefly in a post, Can Hollywood make history? 

Last night, my son and I enjoyed watching the movie The Damned United. It is a portrayal of the troubled 44 days that Brian Clough spent as manager of Leeds United Football club. The movie is worth watching even if you are not a football fan. It is a particularly poignant portrayal of how personal relationships are so important and determinative in life. This is seen in:

-the loyal but difficult relationship between Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor. The synergy of their contrasting personalities and gifts made them a strong but fragile team.

-how Clough was driven by rivalry with the former Leeds Manager Don Revie, which went back to a perceived snub many years.

-how personal relationships (here between manager and players and board of directors) ultimately determine professional success or failure.

There is an interesting discussion in The Guardian, The Damned United should never have been made which highlights some historical inaccuracies (and associated lawsuits) in the movie. The movie writer and directors defend themselves with the claim that they have used creative license to capture the essence of the man. Watching the movie and reading the Wikipedia page about Clough I feel that they have done this. The main weakness I felt of the movie was that it actually did not really enlighten me much on why Clough was such a successful manager.

As an aside, the popular Australian children's writer Jackie French explores issues about historical accuracy nicely in her novel Macbeth and Son.

1 comment:

  1. The Damned United is a very good film, and Martin Sheen plays Clough impeccably.