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By Brian Grimmett

The confusing history inside our movies

"Freeeeeeedom!!" cries Mel Gibson in Braveheart. And when many people think of Scottish people, and their fight for freedom, they think of this movie. The question arises, "How accurate is any movie based on historical events?" No simple answer exists; films must be taken on a case-by-case basis, due to the varying degrees of truth sought and/or represented by the makers of any film.

Several crucial factors have to be taken into consideration, for starters. There is no way to truly know what a different time was like; therefore, no movie is the equivalent of taking a time machine. Do not forget that movies are vehicles for story and entertainment; twisting facts, exaggerating characteristics of well-known figures, and skipping over periods of time become necessary to tell a certain story. Some films aim to reflect history as accurately as possible, while others take a lot of creative license.

Some shows use various subtle methods to establish that the story might be based on historical events yet is still highly fictionalized. Peaky Blinders is one example, with its story focused around a little-known street gang that existed in 1920s England. Yet the songs are from the 1980s and 1990s, rather than traditional music of the time. Music and movies are powerful together; using modern styles of music creates a storytelling environment instead of the feeling of being at an important moment in history.

Problems arise when a movie such as Braveheart somehow becomes seen as historically accurate. This is not to say it is a bad film, and the filmmakers have gone on record saying historical accuracy was not a priority. It is a double-edged sword: on one hand the movie probably inspired many people to find out more about Scottish history, yet the flip side is that so many haven't done so, and inaccurate stereotypes can end up forming due to this.

Such a situation occurred solely by happenstance and probably not intentionally. In the end, many stories of legendary kings or war heroes could be exaggerated. If a movie is aiming to be historically accurate as its main premise, then research and care should be taken to ensure this. Apollo 13 is commonly regarded as one of the best and most accurate films made. That was one of the main goals with this particular film, however. The director and makers were willing to spend money and time, and to risk the possibility of a financially successful film, in favor of staying true to life.

Luckily for them, this realistic depiction worked well for the Apollo 13 story. Other movies may take liberties but still impart the story. These just shouldn't be taken as literally as they sometimes are. For all of its inaccuracies, Braveheart still does a great job of relating many aspects of the Scottish fight for freedom to a modern audience. Historical dramas are great; learning to understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction only enhances the overall experience.

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