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Mike Frank wonders:


> but does it matter? . . . does anyone go to movies expecting
> accuracy in historical recreation?? . . . or is this another
> version of what hitchcock famously called "the plausuibles,"
> those people who take a special delight in pointing out
> places where the director violated some idea of plausibility?

As usual, I think, it all depends . . .
It depends on the amount of historical distance that seems to allow us
to admit the artist (novelist, playwright, filmmaker) more leeway with
more ancient materials (think of I, CLAUDIUS; SPARTACUS, GLADIATOR,
etc., etc.)

It depends on the expectations created by the work's genre and format
that uses historical characters to probe particular questions (think
of Shakespeare's history plays, BECKET, THE LION IN WINTER,
RESTORATION, RIDICULE, etc.)

It depends on the particular questions that the film raises in regard
to specific historical events (think of JFK, etc.)

And it depends on particular audiences and their knowledge (or lack
thereof) of the events and characters being portrayed.

In regard to SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, the very title suggests that the
film is working as much within the realm of the horror genre as of
historical/biographical film.  The original NOSFERATU (and its
influences on Coppola's own DRACULA as well as Herzog's remake) are
plausibly going to be familiar to the art-house audience that will be
the original group going to see the film, but even so, the precise
circumstances of the film's making, of Schreck, of Murnau and so on are
likely to be obscure to all but a relatively small group.  In short,
the promotion and circumstances of the film's exhibition seem likely to
pose the film as an example of "What if . . . " (rather like DC comics'
"Elseworlds" series or alternative histories in science fiction).

If the film is taken *as fiction*, then it should be judged as such.
Unfortunately, there are always people willing (or even eager) to judge
such film as *fact*.

Don Larsson
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Donald F. Larsson
English Department, AH 230
Minnesota State University
Mankato, MN  56001

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