Accuracy or Story, That is the question

Recently I have been watching quite a few period pieces.  Some were complete fiction, others based on true events or actual people.  And its made me ponder the thin line between entertainment and bad accuracy.

There is of course a balance one must keep when doing a period piece.  The story has to be interesting, engaging, with the ups and downs that keep an audience enthralled.  Yet, at the same time, people like myself like to see historically accurate stories.

For some this is relatively easy, especially those that took place in recent years.  For example, Apollo 13 (1994) which is based on a real-life event that took place in April of 1970.  It’s not only one of my favorite films, but it is also one of the films I’ve seen a very real effort to keep things as real as possible without losing the entertainment value.  So while it’s not word-for-word, and they added a few dramatic arguments (after all, the events took place over a week and they have to pack that all into 2 hours), it’s still fairly accurate.  They even went as far as filming scenes in low gravity to make more realistic movement for the space scenes.

Another example is The White Queen (2013).  Now this film takes place in the 15th century during the war of the roses.  And it tends to go more towards creating a good story than depicting the actual events.  Not that I still didn’t enjoy it, but there were some things that happened in the mini-series a quick google search or a Wikipedia search could tell you happened differently.  And since my knowledge is not high on English history as much as it is American history I’m sure there were other moments that would drive my friends who are crazy.  Of course, it’s harder to be as specifically accurate when there is about 500 years and a lack of photographic evidence to really examine.  Facts from this period of time are constantly being reevaluated as new sources of information are found, or someone notices something in what has already been found no one really took note of before.  But there are some general facts to get straight.

I enjoyed the series, but mostly because of the cast, who did a brilliant job in making me not care that not all the facts were right.

So I suppose the question is – when you watch a film, mini-series or TV series based in a specific era, about real people, do you want more accuracy or more story telling?  Would inaccuracies done to make things easier to understand to a chosen demographic make you less willing to watch (for example, the costuming decisions in CW’s Reign)?

What’s your opinion?

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