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Do Historical Films help or hinder our understanding of the past? Discuss with reference to one or more films.

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Introduction

"Do Historical Films help or hinder our understanding of the past?" Discuss with reference to one or more films. Historical films help our understanding of the past because they enhance our knowledge of past events in ways that are more accessible than written sources; however, historical films also hinder our understanding of the past because feature films based on historical events are merely for entertainment purposes. Historians are divided as to whether historical films help or hinder our understanding of the past. Alan Munslow argues that historical films hinder our understanding of the past as he suggests how films are "at worst an inventive entertainment that can only do permanent injury to our understanding of the past."1 However, alternatively, Robert A. Rosenstone agrees that historical films help our understanding of the past as he argues that "a feature film can provide a construction of the past as legitimate as a book written by an academic historian."2 Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List and Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall (Der Untergang) are two films that illustrate how historical films both help and hinder our understanding of the past. Spielberg's Schindler's List helps our understanding of the past because the producers choice of a film in black and white rather than colour, allows Spielberg to create a realistic atmosphere, and thus places us into this dimension of memory.3 Spielberg's Schindler's List hinders our understanding ...read more.

Middle

However, on the other hand, the historian Alan Bullock in his biography24, rather than just focussing on Hitler dictating his life and his anti-Semitism, goes on to suggest how Hitler As his successor he appointed Admiral Donitz President of the Reich, Minister of War, and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces - and promptly proceeded to nominate his government for him.25 By not mentioning Hitler's chosen successor in a film based on Hitler's last days, would not be of any value to historians, and also to audiences studying the period, because it may distort our understanding of Nazism's legacy. Furthermore, in the film, before Hitler commits suicide, Hitler informs Gunsche that he wanted to be burned so that he could not be put on display.26 Although, accurate, Alan Bullock, further explains Hitler's decision for his body to be burned, rather than falling into enemy hands, was influenced by his received news of Italian Fascist Dictator Mussolini's death on the 28th April 1945.27 A scene not showing Hitler's reaction to this prior to his own suicide could perhaps limit our understanding of the past. By thus creating inaccuracy, historians still debating Hitler's death, would not benefit from this depiction of Hitler's last days. Furthermore, Downfall hinders our understanding of the past because the film appears to portray Nazi criminals in a favourable light. ...read more.

Conclusion

239 19 Pelzer, "The Facts behind the Guilt?", German Politics and Society, p.95 20 Pelzer, "The Facts behind the Guilt?", German Politics and Society, p.95 21 Downfall (Der Untergang), (2004), Film, Directed by OLIVER HIRSCHBIEGEL, Germany: Constantin Film Production 22 Alan Bullock, "War-Lord 1939-45", (ed.), Hitler; A Study in Tyranny, 1952, 2nd ed, 1962 (Pelican Books), p.794 23 Downfall (Der Untergang), (2004), Film, Directed by OLIVER HIRSCHBIEGEL, Germany: Constantin Film Production 24 Bullock, "War-Lord 1939-45", Hitler; A Study in Tyranny, p.794 25 Bullock, "War-Lord 1939-45" (ed.), Hitler; A Study in Tyranny, (Middlesex, 1952 and 1962) p.795 26 Downfall (Der Untergang), (2004), Film, Directed by OLIVER HIRSCHBIEGEL, Germany: Constantin Film Production 27 Bullock, "War-Lord 1939-45", Hitler; A Study in Tyranny, p.798 28 Georgescu, "Hitler's Downfall Revisited", Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, pp.371-377, p.376 29 Jurgen Pelzer, "The Facts behind the Guilt?", German Politics and Society, p90-101, p.97 30 Rosenstone, 'Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to our idea of History , p.127 31 Arthur Marwick, "The Communication of Historical Knowledge", The New Nature of History, (Palgrave, 2001), p.188; p. 235 32 Pelzer, "The Facts behind the Guilt?", German Politics and Society, p.95 33 Marwick, "The Communication of Historical Knowledge", The New Nature of History,p.188; p. 235 ?? ?? ?? ?? Mark-James Fisher History Module 1002: Presenting and Representing the Past Essay 1 Dr. Mark Sandle 8 Page 1 ...read more.

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