Saturday, July 5, 2014

Capturing vs Interpreting the Past

I have been listening to and, now, viewing some of Dr. Darren Reid’s podcasts and Youtube videos to better appreciate what historical analysis sounds like.

What are some of the ideas and  themes embedded in his thinking, particularly when reviewing a film about the past?

-Those who create- authors, filmmakers, artists- have a worldview that shapes what they create. Individual worldviews also reveal certain elements of the larger society. Worldviews shape perceptions.

-Movies need to be analyzed on multiple levels.
One level of analysis involves analyzing how accurately events of the past are portrayed in this film.

-Films have narratives.
Storytelling can be concrete or abstract.

Reid asks: What does it mean to have an historically accurate movie?

Reid: For an historian, what is accuracy? “Describing the past based on evidence and sound analysis.”

Reid discusses how movies, tv, and even video games “work as the historian for the larger public consciousness.” Further, he wonders, what obligations do these mediums have to depict the past accurately? And what are the consequences of inaccurate portrayals of the past? Does it matter?

Reid: “Historical accuracy in films does not, nor can it, exist.” What does he mean?

When someone asks, whether or not a film is historically accurate, they appear to mean the following: Did the events depicted in the film happen? And if so, did they happen in ways they are shown in the film?

Reid: “History is a difficult beast to tame.”

Paraphrasing him: While it is tempting to think of the past as something that can be captured, as a “grand story” that can be perceived and recreated on screen, “the truth of the matter is far more complex than that.”

Films are never “just about the period which [they] purport to” portray. In the movie being analyzed, "The New World", Reid asserts that the “weight of the past 400 years” is present.

Films tackle some, but not all, issues, controversies, and perspectives. Which issues are not engaged with? Why?

Reid: “In short, historic films often tell us more about the time when they were made then they do about the time they depict.”-Movies are shaped by the individuals who create them. And they are often (always?) “reshaped to suit modern sensibilities”.

Big Idea: Must keep in mind when watching a movie about the past that we are getting someone’s vision/interpretation of the time period. We are not getting an unfiltered glimpse of the past, as much as the medium may make us feel and think that that is what we are getting.

Two related but different ideas discussed by Reid: historical authenticity and historical accuracy (need to explore these ideas more).

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