By King_Bonzo 11 Comments
I got thinking today. I really fucking hate Braveheart. I also kinda hate historical fiction but Braveheart kind pigeon holes everything I loathe about the vast majority of historical films that were produced by the American film industry during the mid to late 90s and early 2000s. Films like The Patriot, U571, Pearl Harbour, Titanic...etc. Now this loathing of these films is probably not exactly a shock. They are pretty much all terrible, this being confirmed by the fact they were hugely successful. But my venom for films of this ilk is incessant to the point of obsession. For example with Braveheart (which will be my main example) I can't even watch that film any more, it sends me into such an hysteric stupour of rage and amusement at the stupidity of it all.
Braveheart is a specific choice because the subject matter is something close to my heart. I am passionate about early to mid medieval history. I'm not about to say I'm the most well read guy on the planet or any kind of scholar but for example I've read biographies on Attila the Hun, Edward I and Edward III, books covering barbarian and roman culture, the 100 years war and the crusades. Now if any of you pick up say, for example, Marc Morris' excellent biography of Edward I (A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain) you will read a narrative book based in established historical fact that is literally jam packed with exciting battles, political intrigue, riviting characters and more twists, turns and emotional investment than Randell Wallace (Braveheart's writer) could ever attain with mere fiction.
Braveheart is a film based on historical events and characters. It's also anglophobic, homophobic, racist, jingoistic, and Innacurate in regards to dates, events, characters, ages, dress, weaponary and locations. The tale covers Scotland's fierce war of independence against Edward I in the late 13th century. The politcal intrigue of the time, the events that led up to the battles of Stirling Bridge and Banockburn aswell as the events in the battles themselves are, from a narrative standpoint, solid gold! Failed assassination attempts on Edward I in the holy land, a civil war in England at the time, the conquering of Wales, the pogrom against the Jews in London, the death of a Norweigian Princess on her way sailing to Scotland that plunged an entire nation into chaos, the chance death of a Scottish King whilst riding that led to one of bloodiest era's in British history. The rise of a Scottish Knight named Uilliam Uallace (correct norman spelling) to inspire his country men and his inevitable downfall, and the ageing yet resolute King of England dying on the road to Banockburn in Cumberland days before battle with Robert De Brus, to have his much less capable son lose the battle and all he had fought for.
This is a story worth telling! It's rich, it's packed with incident, the Truth of these bewildering years in Anglo-Scottish history is so much more interesting and gripping than the bullshit fiction that was committed to film by Mel Gibson.
And that's more my issue! Of course as an Englishman I find Braveheart to be insulting to both my intelligence and my nation, but raping and rewriting history should be insulting to us all! Especially those involved in the event. U571 insulted those involved to a magnitude rarely witnessed before or: Rather cynically, American screenwriter David Ayer depicted American rather than British naval officers capturing the first Enigma machine, “in order to drive the movie for an American audience.” The first Enigma machine was in fact seized by officers from HMS Bulldog in 1941 and by the time the USA joined the war later that year, Britain had cracked the code. The post-release furore led Tony Blair, Prime Minister at the time, to agree that it was “an affront to the memories” of those involved and Bill Clinton, then US President, to write a letter emphasising the film’s fictional nature. In 2006, Ayer told the BBC he had come to regret the alteration: “Both my grandparents were officers in World War II, and I would be personally offended if somebody distorted their achievements.”
And if I was an American I'd find a film like The Patriot deeply insulting to my intelligence: Gibson (rugby) tackles history again with his turn as an honest farmer drawn into the American Revolutionary War, which historian David Hackett Fischer claimed in the New York Times “is to history as Godzilla was to biology.” Crimes erroneously attributed to British soldiers include immolating villagers inside their church, an atrocity actually committed a century and a half later by Nazis in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane. Meanwhile the director Spike Lee complained that the film “dodged around, skirted about or completely ignored slavery.” There is also strong evidence that Francis Marion, the basis for Gibson’s character, was a slave-owning serial rapist who murdered Cherokee Indians for fun.
What I really hate is that these film makers that the incredibly arrogant posistion of re-writing history and in doing so they cheapen it. History is amazing. It's a rich tapestry of incredibly stories and characters that links us all to our roots and to each other. History doesn't need to be re-written! If you take an historically narrative biography written by Ian Mortimer or David Starkey or John Man, in those pages you have an historically accurate narrative of a person's life or a real event or period that could be crafted to film without needing to be reorganised or amended or deleted.
Back to Braveheart. One of the most random arse scenes in that film is when Princess Isabella fucked Mel Gibson and they she's presumably Pregnant suggesting Edward III was Uallace's son. This scene adds nothing to the story other than to fuck over the English one more time, it's also entirely fictional. Princess Isabella was wedded to Edward II in 1308 when she was 13 years of age. Uallace died in 1305 so the film is insinuating that Uilliam Uallce shagged a ten year old. Nice. I'm sure the ghost of Scotland's greatest hero is really happy about being portrayed as a paedophile.
So please read a book. Don't watch Braveheart, or The Patriot, or U571. They lower the collective IQ of our species.