What Are Some Really Effective Hollywood Movies

Cultural education

Britta labor pains

Britta contractions; Born in 1985; Master of Education (Gym.) For History, German, Values ​​/ Norms; Research assistant and doctoral candidate in the field of history didactics at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg with Prof. Dr. Dietmar von Reeken.

Feature films with historical content have always been very popular. Can you learn about history from films that show historical events or that are set in the past? What is the difference between informal learning in the cinema or in front of the television and learning in educational situations?

Anyone who watches historical films in the cinema is fit with history? It's not that simple (& copy cleeo / www.photocase.com)


Historical films such as "Der Untergang" (2004), "The Lives of Others" (2006) or the television production "Die Flucht" (2007) reached and fascinated millions of viewers in Germany, the same applies to Hollywood blockbusters like "Schindler's List" (1993), "Gladiator" (2000) or "Troy" (2004). All of the feature films mentioned are characterized by the fact that they turn backwards in time and show historical events - partly based on real events, such as the life of a person, a war or a revolution, partly based on a fictional plot that takes place against a historical background. To that extent the conceptual use is historical feature film Unhappily chosen and in principle misleading, the names would actually be more apt historical film or History filmin order to distinguish such films from 'historical' feature films such as "The Murderers Are Among Us" (1945/1946), which in turn do not have to refer to a historical event, but have meanwhile acquired historical significance themselves.

Fascination with historical content

The fascination for historical material that is captured on the screen goes back to the early years of film. "The Birth of a Nation" (1915) was one of the first so-called full-length films with a historical plot, although it was still produced as a silent film. A look at the further history of Hollywood makes it clear that historical feature films are again and again among the most successful - and still best known - films, just think of "Gone with the Wind" (1939), "Ben Hur" (1959), "The Bridge" (1959), "Cleopatra" (1963), "The Name of the Rose" (1986) or "Platoon" (1986).

Since many cinema productions are later also broadcast on TV, often even at regular repetitions, history films also reach numerous young people and are likely to be an integral part of their everyday lives. But can these films only entertain or do they also arouse interest in historical topics and questions? Do they impart knowledge about history and, if so, what?

History as a construction - also in the film

Historical films like to pretend that they can 'depict' historical reality, that is, present the past to the audience 'exactly as' it 'really was'. Oliver Hirschbiegel, director, and Bernd Eichinger, producer of the film "Der Untergang" emphasized during the advertising campaigns that they wanted to "bring the last few days back to life" and "follow through documentary" - with the consequence that many viewers had the impression received that they had, so to speak, 'been there live' at the events in April and May 1945 [1]. Many feature films reinforce this impression by placing a fade-in with the note "Based on a true story" or "Based on true events" in front of the film plot.

It must be made clear that no feature film can show the exact historical reality, since individual actions, character traits, dialogues and much more are invented (at least not historically proven) and staged, i.e. they are arranged in a certain way. Even a historian can never present the past 'as it really was'. At best he can reconstruct and interpret them. History is therefore always an interpretation or construction, this also applies to every historical feature film.

Learning from history films

Nevertheless - or maybe even for this reason - one can recognize many basic principles of history, such as the construct character or the perspectivity, with the help of history films and in this way learn something about how history actually 'works'.

The possibilities of knowing about the narrated time, however, are limited and will be discussed in the next sections. Basically, a distinction must be made between informal, purely entertainment-oriented consumption in private and the reception of cinema or TV films in education, e.g. also in school. With both variants, adolescents and (young) adults can draw very different insights from a story film.

Private Consumption: Informal Learning

Due to their intensity and expressiveness, historical fiction films can stimulate the audience's imagination and draw the audience into the narrated story. In this way, they do not present their audience with 'pure' data or facts in the most sober way possible, but rather pull the viewer under their spell through individual fates that are witnessed on the screen. In most cases, an even more dramatic love story develops between the protagonists against a highly dramatic historical backdrop, such as a war. As a result, the viewers are emotionally absorbed and, to a certain extent, 'cheer' on the heroes of the story while rejecting the 'bad guys'.

As a result, the viewer also takes on at least a certain part of the evaluations expressed by the film. This happened, for example, in many US productions of the 1960s, often quite striking, films about World War II each presented at least one thoroughly 'evil' Nazi. More recent films are much more subtle and show more ambiguous figures, but the effect is comparable: the viewers adopt values ​​and interpretations of the film without being usually aware of this, as they are made through personalization and dramatization and emotionalization can be influenced. Depending on how the film is interpreted, this unreflective adoption can be problematic.

Replica of the Berlin Wall (& copy Britta Wehen)
At the same time, the viewer believes that they are learning something about the actual historical events, since a feature film, due to its imagery, pretends to be "implicit photorealism" [2]. The appearance of cities or landscapes can be recreated in the film using computer animations or backdrops. For "Der Baader Meinhof Complex" (2008), for example, part of the Berlin Wall was recreated on the grounds of the Babelsberg film studios.

Appropriate historical utensils (automobiles, tools, household items) or clothing, badges and medals, etc. can also be produced and used in the film store. The equipment and props are perceived by the audience and combined with what has already been read or heard. If the viewer has only read or seen drawings of the so-called Trojan horse up to now, he / she may remember the appearance of the wooden horse in the mentioned film after Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy" and in future always Petersen's Trojan horse before his / her spiritual one Eye see when he / she reads, listens or speaks about it.

In addition, feature films transmit a very large amount of information in just a few moments. The appearance of a place, various objects, the clothes of the protagonists as well as their shape, posture, facial expressions and gestures, moods, atmosphere and emotions can be represented in fractions of a second. Although a lot of information is offered, the viewers can only devote their full attention to very few. Nonetheless, historical films generally offer the possibility of illustrating a historical place through visual details, even if this only applies to historical films in which the mentioned aspects have been carefully researched and historically implemented.

In informal learning situations, therefore, the visuality and dynamics of the feature film predominate - in the positive case they make historical events appear more concrete and plastic. In the negative case, the viewer is overwhelmed by the concrete imagery and emotional presentation and drawn into the narrative. Aesthetic means of film such as lighting, camera perspective or background music also control the audience's feelings and associations and can help the audience to adopt the views and judgments of the feature film without questioning them. In educational institutions in particular, in addition to the aesthetic enjoyment that a fictional film can and should provide, a critical distance from what is seen should also be built up in order to prevent the risk of viewers adopting the (implicit) interpretations of the film without reflection.