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Symbeline's avatar

How do you feel about movies based on true events?

Asked by Symbeline (30415 points ) October 16th, 2012

A lot of movies make that claim, and often do have some of the source as their influence. For example, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was influenced by the story of Edward Gein. I mean if you watch the movie, then read about Ed Gein, there’s barely anything similar about both…But you have movies that take place in certain time periods, or certain events. Movies that happen during WWII, movies that focus on the Renaissance, or that take stereotypical approaches on certain people or cultures. Then you have movies based on recent events like 9/11.

For example there’s a horror movie called Chernobyl Diaries which is, essentially, just a typical slasher movie that takes place in the abandoned city of Pripyat. But do you think that people who have been through this, and who’s lives are still affected by that event, would get offended or insulted by the movie? To see a horror movie made out of it? Or what about 9/11 movies turned into cheesy, overdramatic action/drama flicks? These are things that those who went through it, and many who haven’t, feel strongly about. What would Edward Gein’s mother think if she saw TCM? Would they care or not?

Of course, some movies take their source much more seriously. Schindler’s List or The Pianist for example, I think most people see these movies as an honest take on WWII and its atrocities.
There are plenty of sides; those who exploit a source, others who wish to inform, those who want to shock with a well known happening, and those who want to share what they feel about something that occurred. Many more, probably.

But what about you? How do you feel about ’‘based on’’ movies? Based on a true story, based on an event…I guess it can depend a whole lot. How the movie treats its source and what it does with it.

I totally love horror movies, but I was thinking that if I had been through Chernobyl or had lost someone because of it, I may not have appreciated the CD movie so much. Then again, it’s just a movie, right? Maybe some who experienced the event got a silly kick out of it. Or perhaps not.
Where do you stand in this? How much respect should influences get, or does it not matter? I’d find it hard to see a movie that glorifies school shootings, but I bet at least one exists somewhere.

I keep thinking of examples that I, personally, think either do justice to something, or completely disrespect it. But let’s hear what you think.

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21 Answers

josie's avatar

If they were really based on true events, they would be documentaries. Beyond that, such movies are subject to artistic interpretation. The answer to the question is that I like such movies, but I know better than to think that they are really a representation of true events. But that is Hollywood after all. “Based on True Events” is nothing but a current marketing ploy. It seems to work. So be it.

Symbeline's avatar

@josie Kickass answer. :)

tom_g's avatar

What @josie said.
Also, I guess I’d be ok with them if that cheesy music was really playing throughout when these “real life” events supposedly really happened. If a string orchestra is trying to elicit a tear from me, then scrap the “based on true events.”

Symbeline's avatar

@tom_g Incidentally, I feel the same about actual documentaries…I see a lot of them that have such a dramatic approach, and use themed music that makes the whole documentary seem like a movie.

tom_g's avatar

^^ I agree. It’s insulting. If the material is really that powerful, then let it speak for itself. Don’t try to tell me how to feel about it by providing scary/dramatic/sad/happy music over it. Nature films about animals can’t seem to resist putting in some music. What the hell does music have to do with beavers creating a dam?

Coloma's avatar

I am a non-fiction type, and do gravitate towards “true” story type material, however @josie said it best. One can only hope they are getting a fairly reliable and realistic account.

Coloma's avatar

@tom_g LOL….aaah…yes, well, with the right musical theme the lions shredding the gazelle does ad an extra dramatic touch to manipulate more emotion. Hey, it works, obviously. ;-)

Symbeline's avatar

Recipe for epicness; play O Fortuna to everything you watch.

woodcutter's avatar

Real life events can never measure up to what film makers want them to be.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I always roll my eyes. I don’t care about “reality”.

DominicX's avatar

@josie In some cases, it is really a marketing ploy, in the case of movies like “The Fourth Kind”, which claimed to be based on true events, but absolutely was not. (And the amount of people fooled by it was sad…)

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I prefer documentaries. Give me the facts. The only movie that was “based upon” a story that was better than the real life one was The Sound of Music. The true story is not glamorous in any way, and after growing up watching the movie a hundred times before discovering the truth was not pretty.

filmfann's avatar

This is a hot topic with me. I think that kids today are learning from movies, rather than books. So, when the director changes every little thing about the Iliad in Troy, I go nuts.
The Sound Of Music, W., Gandhi, Thirteen Days, and many others changed true events for the sake of watchablity, and the viewers understanding of real history suffered for it.

glacial's avatar

Spoiler alert, if anyone cares…

Just don’t give me a “based on a true story” movie in which everyone dies at the end, like “Perfect Storm” or “Open Water”. If I get through the whole movie, and no one survived to tell the tale, what the hell did they base the last 2 hours of my life on? That is time that I want back!

Coloma's avatar

I really liked ” Into the wild” and , argh….what was the one about the kid hiking in Utah that got stuck in the crevice in a canyon for a few days? Something hours..? I wonder if those were accurate portrayals?

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

What @filmfann said.

For me, I do watch these films, which then get me interested in the reality behind the fantasy. I’ll research (and often read books) about the actual person/event portrayed on screen after watching the movie.

However, too many people these days watch movies uncritically and absorb them as fact, which leads to warped perceptions of history/historical events/personalities.

I do understand that film, as a medium, demands a two or three-act drama with plot points, and that for expediency’s sake, the narrative needs to be condensed and sometimes changed, but I happen to think history and actual events are just as equally interesting and dramatic, and it’s sad that the filmmaking community feels that it needs to stick to formulaic scriptwriting rather than conveying what really happened (but as @josie astutely points out, there’s a difference between documentaries and drama!).

Occasionally, a responsible screenwriter/director (or both) does their best to get it right, or at least as close as possible within constraints. One of the best at this (IMHO) is John Sayles. Both “Matewan” and “Eight Men Out” don’t stray as much from the actual events as other movies/scripts do.

Finally back to @filmfann‘s great comment; I hope that teachers who screen films will take the responsibility to critically examine the films afterwards, and perhaps pair them with books/articles that examine the reality behind the silver screen.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I spent the whole day bicycling in southern Sweden when that cloud of Strontium 90 enveloped us. The Soviets didn’t say a thing for two days, so a lot of us in Scandinavia were unnecessarily exposed. No. I’m not offended by a horror movie that uses Chernobyl for a setting. I could care less.

I’m almost sure Ed Gein’s mother wouldn’t mind either. I think a part of his sofa and a lampshade were made from her skin. And didn’t he make a mask of her face that he wore around the house while nude?

I don’t trust anything on film to be entirely faithful to original sources. If I’m really into the subject, or if the docudrama-infomercial-news item (or whatever it is that passes as non-fiction nowadays) peaks my interest, I’ll check it out in Wikipedia. I expect them to be as faithful as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the main character of which was supposed to be based on Gein.

SomeoneElse's avatar

Personally I think that these films are often hyped up, with all the seedy stuff made more prominent, with sex added when none was there.
Think ‘Titanic’ . . . everyone knew the ending, sadly.

ucme's avatar

I just love Santa Claus:The Movie ;¬}
If we’re talking about Ed, this film works best.

filmfann's avatar

Back in the 70’s and early 80’s, I used to go to a lot of silent movie screenings in the area. I became friendly with the pianist/organist Bob Vaughn, who accompanied the films. He was the nicest man!
A few years ago, the movie Zodiac portrayed him as a possible participant in the Zodiac killings. If you had ever met the man, you would laugh out loud at that!

mazingerz88's avatar

How I feel about it depends on how the source material was interpreted as a story on film. If I enjoy the movie, it would not matter to me if it did not serve the source material well. Unless of course it was disrespectful to the point of being perverse.

Titanic was a great film in all its technical aspects. But in my opinion, selling it by injecting a shallow romantic story in there would make the film less and less important through the years. For some reason, I felt like that was a perverted thing James Cameron did. Lol.

The King’s Speech however, is a fine example of allowing an otherwise insignificant moment in that history be magnified into something bigger, even inspirational. Cinema is at its best when it accomplishes something like that.

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