Five Important Biopics

–      Downfall (2004)

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, this film details the last few days of Nazi Germany, focusing on the lives of those living in Hitler’s bunker. Downfall attempts to be as historically accurate as possible, and is based on both the work of historians and the accounts of eyewitness, in particular Trudi Junge, Hitler’s secretary during his final years in power. The inaccuracies that can be found are small- certain objects manufactured after the end of the Second World War, for example. The desperation of those closest to Hitler is portrayed with skill, and the film gives a chilling sense of the inevitable failure of the Nazi regime. Downfall is a must-see for anyone interested in the study of WWII.


–      The Kings Speech (2010)

The Kings Speech, starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, is an exploration of the speech impediment of George VI, the father of the current queen. Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue helps the king deal with his stammer through his accession to the throne, and the start of the Second World War. Warm hearted and amusing, this film does contain a few intentional inaccuracies, in order to be more widely accessible. The friendship between Logue and the king is exaggerated for the modern audience- in reality, the speech therapist never called George VI ‘Bertie’. Despite this, the film is a good introduction to the 1936 Abdication Crisis, and manages to be both easy to watch, and memorable.


–      Milk (2008)

Set primarily in the 1970s, Milk is a film about the struggle of gay rights activist Harvey Milk to become the first gay man elected to office in the USA. Harvey Milk is played by Sean Penn, and Milk also stars Josh Brolin and James Franco. Due to the use of the actual areas of San Francisco that Milk lived and worked in for filming, there are several anachronistic buildings and products visible throughout. However, the chronology of the film is relatively accurate, and even uses footage of the time period within the narrative to add to the feel of the film. An incredibly moving film of a man not nearly as well-known as he should be.


–      The Young Victoria (2009)

The Young Victoria is a depiction of the start of the reign of Queen Victoria, played by Emily Blunt, and helps to dispel the image of the monarch as old and gloomy. There are some glaring errors – a key moment of mortal peril for a certain character is, in fact, fictional. However, the film deserves credit for reforming the image of Victoria, by portraying her as a romantic heroine of a sort.


–      Little Ashes (2008)

Where to begin? Little Ashes portrays a circle of creative minds, including Salvador Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca, in 1920s Spain. It could be considered a good introduction to the culture of the period, although the nature of the relationship between Dali and Lorca, contested by historians, is over-emphasised within the film. Overall, this film is worth a watch purely for the artistic creativity the low budget necessitated, and the moustache sported by Robert Pattinson.

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