Saturday, December 31, 2005In two separate film-related conversations over the holidays, I was asked if I can ever enjoy a movie that is historically inaccurate. I said no, I could not. Not if a movie is attempting to present itself as factual. It's bad film-making and I can't excuse it under any circumstances. I got positive responses in both cases, but it is not always so.
Truth in art is like a neighborhood. If you excuse negligence, it grows. A cracked window in a housing project may seem a pithy thing, but two cracked windows become three and then four and a cracked door may very well lead to a crack house. Such was the case in New York City, and in a similar way was crime cleaned up. Art is no different. The Patriot is a fun movie, you might say. Who cares if it is accurate? We must care, because these film narratives enter the public consciousness. They become part of the zeitgeist, and they cannot be ignored. A little inaccuracy in the name of entertainment goes a long way to changing the common perception. Truth mattered in Braveheart. It mattered in the Patriot. It mattered in every movie because over time our expectations are altered. So when The DaVinci Code shows up next spring, and people say "Who cares? It's just a good story," remember that the truth, however ugly, however beautiful, always matters.
The movie is very Rome-centered, so I wonder what the popular Protestant response will be. Will the truth that the book and movie are false to the point of slander be posited in the same vein as The Passion of the Christ was ferociously promoted?