Who doesn’t love a historical drama? At the very least, they offer those of us who don’t have time to read the chance to appear informed. Even for history buffs, seeing historical figures come to life is undoubtedly a thrilling experience.
It goes without saying that a certain artistic license is required to bring a historical event to the big screen. Most of the time, the dialogue is to be invented and the deadlines sometimes need to be compressed. Even stretching facts or exaggerating events for the purpose of creating on-screen tension can be acceptable.
But sometimes the directors take such liberties that the actual events are distorted to the point of offending. Finding the right balance between crafting an engaging story and portraying the facts is key. Filmmakers have a certain responsibility when tackling history, after all, for many viewers it may be their only glimpse into the past.
The following films have all been praised for their entertainment value, but in the same breath they have also been hounded for their lazy, ignorant, and even disrespectful handling of history.
From the outset, it was clear that some artistic license was going to be taken with this story. Director David Michôd worked with Joel Edgerton to develop a screenplay based on William Shakespeare’s Henriad. Shakespeare took his own liberties with Henry V, so the screenwriters were already off the mark when it came to historical accuracy.
There are, however, some inaccuracies that can be forgiven and actually work in the film’s favor. King Henry V was never the drunken youngster he was made out to be; he was a seasoned military leader and a popular candidate for the throne. For the sake of the character’s story, however, it makes sense to give her a head start.
The most glaring inaccuracy was the depiction of the Battle of Agincourt itself. Let’s put aside the incorrect battle tactics and instead focus on including Louis, the Dolphin (Robert Pattinson). The arrogant Dauphin is shown on horseback in the carnage, essentially breaking up the fighting, to offer single combat, before being unceremoniously killed. In reality the Dolphin was hundreds of miles away, in failing health, and was an incredibly pious and humble man. Single combat was also something that happened rarely and certainly not in the middle of a battle.