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Ahistorical screen dramas – In a new breed of stories, the past is a playground, not a corset | Books & arts

TWO TV Recently, a program about Catherine the Great of Russia was premiered.The first “Catherine the Great” was with Sky in England HBO In the United States, it was released in October 2019. In 1762, after the Empress defeated her husband Peter III, the series Grande Dam British actor Helen Mirren. It focused on strengthening Catherine’s power and her relationship with Grigory Potemkin, and made occasional speeches on the solemn nature of the Enlightenment and national crafts.

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Another show, The Great, was first released last year on the streaming service Hulu. The noisy comedy “The Great,” adapted by Tony McNamara from his play, begins with a young Catherine (Elle Fanning) leaving Prussia to marry Peter (Nicholas Hoult). Her hope for sophisticated romance is shattered when she meets a stupid and barbaric spouse. Her main priority is to break things and rock women in court. With the help of her sharp-tongue maid and weak courtier, Catherine plans a coup.

Conceptually based on the same material, the two works differ significantly in content and tone. The difference captures the trends of historical drama. More than that, it shows the evolution of attitudes towards the world of entertainment, and perhaps beyond, towards history itself.

Starting with a formal summary of historical records, “Catherine the Great” treats the subject in awe. In contrast, the characters in “The Great” relentlessly vow and discuss sex. The emperor is a borderline psychopath and has no interest in governance. The facts are sharply bent. When Catherine arrived, Peter was on the throne, but in fact he was married for 17 years before he was crowned. At the show, he is the son of Peter the Great and a paternity who lends him a small Oedipus complex. In fact, Peter III was his prominent German-born grandson of the same name. However, this fast and very loose approach, advertised as an “occasional true story” in the comedy blink introduction, further fuels the irreverent tendencies that have evolved over the years.

In 2015, Hamilton, a hip-hop musical about the Founding Father, showed that you can be rewarded for telling stories of the past in a fresh way. The Death of Stalin (2017) satirized the posthumous power struggle of the despot. The actors spoke with British and American accents rather than influencing Russian. Written by McNamara and Deborah Davis, The Favorite (2018) depicts a love triangle involving Queen Anne of Great Britain and two female courtiers in the early 18th century. (Historians suspect that women were very intimate.) “Dickinson” (2019), created by Alena Smith, revisits the life of poet Emily Dickinson for the American civil war. Did. The character uses modern slang. The soundtrack includes rap and pop.

Catherine the Great shows the intellectual curiosity of the real Empress and the belief that she was born to rule. Factionism and the destruction of power have real-life nuisances. But unlike, for example, Hamilton, who verbally described the 1787 Constitutional Convention, history is not as the subject here as the scaffolding on which stories are freely constructed. Gretel Vella, a member of the team, says each writer “has been asked to pick our eight favorite points from history.” They tried to include these nuggets, but “if the characters in the story didn’t go well, they kicked them out.”

That method has something in common with the breach and rampage drama “Bridgerton” about the marriage market in Regency England. In Netflix’s blockbuster, Queen Charlotte, the real spouse of George III, appears as a minor character. In this story, she is mixed-race and uses her position to promote colored races to aristocrats. Julia Quinn, the author of the novel on which the show was based, says that this adjustment allows 21st-century spectators to “have all the little pieces of fairy tales.” Even in “The Great”, the past is not a corset but a playground.

Under the high zinc, there is a very 21st century sense that it is impossible to know exactly the life gone by and that the interpretation is always subjective. If what survives for posterity is an incomplete and contested record, all writers must fill the gap to create a story. Today’s screenwriters acknowledge their invention by inserting anachronisms that emphasize a modern perspective. The method goes beyond unpleasant blasphemy. By using a distorted fisheye lens, Yorgos Lanthimos, director of The Favorite, drew attention to the distorted court view of the film.

They and us

As much as the era in which they were set, the real subject, or target, of these works is an old-fashioned costume drama, with a pretense of verisimilitude and an assertion of the authoritative knowledge of the past it implied. Consider the real Tudor gown of “Elizabeth R” starring Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I. Recently malicious due to its own decoration, even “The Crown” strives to imitate the texture of life in the mid-20th century. “Has a culture England “It’s a pretty chunky historical drama,” says Ed Guiney, producer of “The Favorite.” This genre was usually “very polite style,” McNamara adds. “It helps with the idea of ​​being rethought and playing.”

Aside from obscenity and intense conversation, one of the reasons why “Great” and others have proved to be persuasive is the skillful use of old stories to reflect modern society, such as Shakespeare’s historical drama. That is. For example, “Dickinson” pays a lot of attention to fame and political polarization. The poet and her time are intended as a “metaphor for seeing us,” says the show’s creator, Smith. McNamara considers “The Great” to be “a more modern show than the times” in the sense of “about young women trying to build their own lives, as they did back then.”

It may help that the covid-19 tragedy seems to close the gap between today’s world and the world of the last century. “We are now living in an era of death, plague, plague, war, and what you have to do with the past,” Guinea says. Ultimately, he believes analogies are encouraging. “At the same time as some kind of comfort, we go back to an era of history where people felt as vulnerable as they are now and enlighten them to see how they navigated and overcome it. Sometimes, because they got over it. ” ■■

This article was published in the printed book and arts section under the heading “History Drama”.

Ahistorical screen dramas – In a new breed of stories, the past is a playground, not a corset | Books & arts Source link Ahistorical screen dramas – In a new breed of stories, the past is a playground, not a corset | Books & arts

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