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Revisionist Tales

A Storyhouse Young Programmers Film Season

Rumours, scandals, and historical inaccuracies.

In this short season of films celebrating the lives of three historical figures, Marie Antoinette, Dido Elizabeth Belle and Queen Anne, the Storyhouse Young Film Programmers tread the line between fact and fiction.

Inspired by popular TV shows like The Great and Bridgerton, the Storyhouse Young Programmers (a group of 14–25-year-olds who are passionate about film) respond to a trend in pop culture of ‘historically inaccurate’ works of fiction and present three of their favourite Revisionist Tales from recent cinema to explore how film can re-imagine history in fun, quirky, and radical ways.

Revisionist Tales begins with Yorgos Lanthimos’ internationally acclaimed tragicomedy The Favourite.

Based (very) loosely on a true story, this film follows two rivals as they compete for the affections of Queen Anne. Lanthimos uses dark comedy in this re-imagining of the court of Queen Anne. Following an intense, passionate and brutal rivalry between Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone), The Favourite is a hilarious, outrageous and eccentric film that plays with fact and fiction. With the upcoming (although now slightly delayed) release of Poor Things by Lanthimos, the Storyhouse Young Film Programmers believe it is the perfect time to revisit his most celebrated work. They also believe that this choice is relevant to a recent trend in popular culture in which period films intentionally play around with historical inaccuracies. It’s hard not to make comparisons between TV shows like The Great and The Favourite. In fact, Tony McNamara, who created The Great, was brought onto The Favourite by Lanthimos to infuse the script with its now signature bold and darkly comic tone. Our first screening of the Revisionist Tales season will be an exciting opportunity to revisit this hugely celebrated and unusually influential film. This is a film that makes the case in favour of historical inaccuracies over fact, making this film a hugely entertaining time all around.

The Favourite (15) Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018.

For the second screening of the season, the Storyhouse Young Film Programmers have chosen to shine a light on the often-overlooked history of Dido Elizabeth Belle with the gorgeous, empowering and romantic film Belle.

Ghanaian-British filmmaker Amma Asante retells the history of Dido Belle from a somewhat fictional perspective due to a lack of knowledge available about the historical figure. The basic facts of this film, however, are accurate. It is inspired by Johann Zoffany’s 18th-century portrait of two young English ladies, one of whom is Dido Elizabeth Belle, the biracial daughter of a Royal Navy captain and the slave he met after capturing a Spanish ship. Belle takes inspiration from the enigmatic portrait and the slim historical record and embellishes her story. In this revisionist tale, she plays a key role in the campaign to abolish slavery in England. The Storyhouse Young Film Programmers are excited to be revisiting this important and overlooked film that explores an intriguing part of British history. Although released 10 years ago, this film feels almost like a contemporary to the hugely successful and popular TV show Bridgerton, a show that was praised for its radical portrayal of BAME actors in aristocratic finery and noble positions. Whereas Bridgerton adopts an entirely fictional and revisionist approach to history, Belle takes inspiration from a very real historical figure. Belle is as passionate and radical as it is tender and poignant, and it is a real treat to experience on the big screen.

Belle (12A) Dir. Amma Asante, 2013.

Finally, we finish the season with Sofia Coppola’s beloved historical drama, Marie Antoinette, which follows the rise and fall of the ill-fated queen to a fun pop-punk soundtrack.

Coppola’s film offers a refreshing portrayal of Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) as a young fourteen-year-old girl, her complicated marriage to Louis XVI of France, life in Versailles, and the years leading up to the French Revolution. Upon its initial release, the film received several negative reviews and was considered controversial for its historical inaccuracies and aesthetic choices. Coppola’s intentional anachronisms, however, are what make the film so iconic and celebrated by contemporary audiences. From the modern dialogue to the bright and colourful costumes, the pop-punk soundtrack, and the experimental set design, Coppola re-imagined and embellished the history of Marie Antoinette for a modern audience. In fact, Coppola’s distinctive aesthetic choices have become incredibly influential and can be seen in many recent historical dramas. Once again, shows such as Bridgerton and The Great come to mind as examples of TV shows that embrace historical inaccuracies and make creative aesthetic choices in order to bring new life to historical biopics. The Young Film Programmers are excited to be screening one of Coppola’s most controversial and influential films—a guaranteed royal party.

Fans of Marie Antoinette will be excited to hear that Storyhouse is also screening Sofia Coppola’s breakthrough film The Virgin Suicides as part of Cinema Rediscovered Tour this September.

Marie Antoinette (12A) Dir. Sofia Coppola, 2006.

Revisionist Tales runs from 9 – 23 Aug at Storyhouse Cinema. Tickets are £5 for members and £6 for non-members. Explore the season page here.

Story written by Jodie Jeffs.