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By The Quiet Voice

The truth about fact and fiction in movies

When a movie is based upon a real life event in history, many people take this as gospel that such events played out as the movie depicts. While some fantastical scenes might be chalked up to movie magic added in for flair, the key words that concern any historical movie are "based upon." So many people hear the words "true story" without realizing the ease with which Hollywood puts its own spin upon productions that in some cases are very loose representations of famous events in world history.

To be fair, such tales are often accurate enough in several aspects that such egregious liberties can be forgiven. The entertainment value of many such films commonly negates the fact that the story did not unfold as the film displays. For instance, the widely popular "300" and "300: Rise of an Empire" focus heavily upon the war pitted against the country of Sparta during the takeover of the Persian Empire. While it remains a powerful and compelling story in its own right, the omission of the thousands of Greeks that fought alongside the fierce Spartans is obviously for show. It is far more impressive to think that 300 men fought and prevailed against overwhelming odds for even a short time. Such a story is entertaining and inspiring, but hardly believable.

Even the film "Troy" has its drawbacks. But considering the lack of any well-defined history of the times it is understandable to allow fiction to fill the gaps. What does remain, however, as a matter of record, as discovered by historians, likely would never have made the film a draw for many viewers that attended due to the choice of cast. As a form of entertainment many viewers wish to see their favorite actors and actresses in powerful, commanding roles. Had the mighty Achilles been shown attempting to avoid the Trojan War along with his companion Odysseus it is likely that viewers would not have flocked to see the film.

Moving forward in history, it is interesting to look at feuds such as that of the Hatfields and McCoys, a long-standing personal vendetta between two families that caused them to become known by a nation. While many aspects of this time-worn story are very true, there are still many other facts that were omitted or otherwise changed to increase the promotional value of the production. In truth, many descendants of both clans spoke out vehemently against the depictions of their ancestors, claiming that not only was it a gross misrepresentation of their families, but an irresponsible depiction of a feud that gained such overwhelming notoriety. While the true story behind the Hatfields and the McCoys has been told throughout the years, few will likely recall the truth behind the feud or why it was important, preferring to cling to the film adaptation.

Films based upon real life are ultimately responsible for their ability to cling to the truth while still offering what amounts to entertainment. Adhering to the truth of history is not always the most popular method, nor does it guarantee box office sales, but at the very least it offers integrity and a true representation of the facts. While some stories are by necessity altered so as to give the viewers an experience they will enjoy and perhaps learn from, others are often considered lazily constructed and given a bit of flash just to earn attention.

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