“….In The Middle Ages and the Movies eminent historian Robert Bartlett takes a fresh, cogent look at how our view of medieval history has been shaped by eight significant films of the twentieth century. The book ranges from the concoction of sex and nationalism in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, to Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Siegfried, the art-house classic The Seventh Seal to Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev and the epic historical drama El Cid. The historical accuracy of these films is examined, as well as other salient aspects – how was Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose translated from page to screen? Why is Monty Python and the Holy Grail funny? And how was Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky shaped by the Stalinist tyranny under which it was filmed?….”
Well, I think I’m too much of an oik to really comment on some of the above movies, only one of which really impressed me. That was The Name of the Rose. Absolutely riveting, atmospheric and dripping with an air of reality. It really was believable in every way.
With the exception of the hilarious, not-to-be-taken-seriously Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the other named movies aren’t my idea of seminal…and one of them was downright farcical rubbish masquerading as actual Scottish history. The real William Wallace would have decapitated Mel Gibson on sight…and I’d have handed him the sword. When I watched it (riveted by horrible fascination) I ended up rooting for Longshanks! Unfortunately the hero was the awful Gibson. Mind you, Longshanks was played by the inestimable Patrick McGoohan, so I can perhaps be excused for cheering him on.
This book isn’t likely to have me rushing to order it, but that’s because I’m not that interested in movie history or in films about history in general. They almost always disappoint—and are guilty of deliberately twisting facts to sensationalise (or tell the dumb viewer what the film makers think can be dealt with by such dumb little grey cells).
As for the range of worthy books, that too is shrinking. I’m becoming very picky about many of the non-fiction books on history that have been published recently. I want history, with facts and warts. I do not want a book based around a “fantastic new find” claimed by an author hoping to sell copies with something that’s not new at all. (Please note, I’m not referring to Robert Bartlett! )