Friday, 24 August 2012

England on Film - History in Movies

To celebrate the arrival of the Paralympics and because most of my readers are not from the UK, I thought you might want to know a little more about the beautiful country I happen to live in. So I compiled an interesting list of movies for you! 

Granted, this is not factual information per se. But it will be fun to do and they are based on real-life stories in one way or another, even if only vaguely. 


I love The Young Victoria! We all have this idea that being a Monarch is to be at the top of the food chain. In The Young Victoria, it's clear that being a royal is anything but fun. In a time where love didn't quite come into the agenda for marriage, Queen Victoria managed to find real love and it changed her life and her reign forever. A wonderful story without a shadow of doubt. She truly found her prince charming. This flick also showcases some British talent with Emily Blunt as the lead actress.

W./E.  - the story of King Edward VIII, the prince who renounced the throne for love when he fell in love with American divorcee Wallis Simpson. What comes right up there with finding prince charming?  A man who would do anything for you. Ditto. Here is one of the greatest romances in history from a different point of view - that of the woman involved in it. The one who was despised by a nation for stealing the heart of their king. A little footnote? W./E. was directed by Madonna. It didn't receive great headlines, but I like it nonetheless. 


The Queen is the unauthorised version of the Queen's reaction to Princess Diana's death. She as heavily criticised for not showing any or enough emotion during the tragedy, and this film gives a little insight into what supposedly happened behind closed doors. I remember when it came out. Nobody quite knew what to expect and the potential for polemic was huge. But instead, it became one of the best films about the royalty. 

The Iron Lady tells the story of Margaret Thatcher's political career. Thatcher not only holds the belt for the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th Century, but she's also the only woman ever elected as the UK Prime Minister. She was nicknamed 'The Iron Lady' due to her conservative views and zero tolerance policies. This film had mixed reviews, but I would watch it just for the girl power factor.

The King's Speech is a film that needs no introduction. Again, focusing in what is very human in a royal. King George the sixth had speech impediment issues, which were made worse by the fact he was always on the spotlight. This is the story of how he overcame that with the help of an unconventional therapist. Watch if for the 'they-are-oh-so-human' factor. Even the king has issues he can't quite help. 


The Duchess, portrayed by Keira Knightley and based on the true story of Georgiana Spencer - the Duchess of Devonshire, again comes to highlight the pitfalls of being part of the royal court. What women had to endure in order to keep-face and move up the ladder in 18th century England, where they were allow very little passed looking pretty and having outstanding manners. A very sad, but powerful and interesting story.

And here is our book connection - The Other Boleyn Girl was originally a Philippa Gregory novel, but it has since had two film adaptations. Here, I'll be talking about the 2008 version with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. 

Who haven't heard of Henry VIII, his six wives, two mistresses, and his obsession with having a male heir and getting his wives and mistresses either killed or disgraced? Well... The Other Boleyn Girl is the fictional story of Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne Boleyn -  the woman King Henry VIII founded the Church of England over in order to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and remarry. Although this is very much disputed within historians, Mary Boleyn was believed to have been a mistress to the king before he married her sister Anne. Worth watching for the lesson on what awaits power-thirsty people.

And after all you learned above, you can't help but watch Elizabeth, the 1998 version with Cate Blanchett. This should really go under Award Winners, but you need to understand a little about Henry VIII to understand Elizabeth, as she was his daughter. She ascended to become queen after Henry's death, determined to prove her father wrong after he killed her mother and declared her illegitimate. A very sad story of a woman in love with a man who was in love with her throne, but another one that showcases the power of a very strong will. A brilliant film.

So there you are - my top movie choices for a little crash-course in (speculative) British history. :) If you decide to take it on, please don't forget to let us know what you think of the them. 

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