7 hours ago
Friday, 26 February 2010
Thoughts on treatment on film of historical personages
I've just completed reading Lytton Strachey's quite excellent biography 'Queen Victoria'. Such lucid, stylish and fluid writing - even presented me with half-a-dozen 'new' words with which I was unfamiliar, which I like in a book. But we all know this monarch from early photographs as the squat, po-faced, matriarchal figure in advanced age. However, apparently even as a child, she had unprepossessing looks, a rather short, dumpy figure with projecting upper teeth and weak chin. Now setting this against her representation in last year's film 'Young Victoria' where Emily Blunt looks as though the character would have graced a 'Miss World' line-up, then one gets some idea of the extent of historical 'accuracy' of this film in particular. But this is hardly something new. All films, from whichever country, have glamourised their past. There have been so many films featuring Queen Elizabeth I but, as far as I know, not one of them has even dared to hint that even in middle age she possessed hopelessly rotten teeth (the ones remaining in her head, that is), that she became almost totally bald, and that in order to cover up the pock-marks on her face she wore face-cream, reputedly, up to an inch thick - the latter being some exaggeration, one might think. (Would a film featuring George Washington have the guts to display a portrayal of him with wooden teeth?) I accept that the 'truth' can often work against the success of a historical film but on the other hand I do believe that a little more attempt at veracity has its own dramatic potential, though maybe not in the way most members of an audience would care to see, sanitisation being rather more palatable. I could go on further at some length but at least I've got it off my chest.