Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Middle Ages in film
The 20th century is not the first to create images of life during medieval times. The Middle Ages ended six centuries ago and each century has imagined, portrayed and depicted the Middle Ages through painting, architecture, poetry, music and novel. In the 20th century, film has defined Medieval history perhaps more so than any other medium. While the conclusions of academic research and findings of archeology have advanced knowledge of the Middle Ages, nothing has had more widespread influence on more people than the images created by film. Just as most peoples perceptions of the American Wild West were drawn mostly from cinema, versus source material or academic research, so too most peoples perceptions of the Middle Ages were influenced by the powerful narratives and images of film.
If film was the most influential medium, Hollywood was the most influential image maker. Hollywood films reached a global audience through big budget productions, and equally big distribution and advertising channels. Hollywood adapted works of the Romanticism movement to the screen, seamlessly forging a bridge between Romanticized historical novels, operas, paintings, and music of the 19th century onto film in the 20th. The ideals of the Romantics were fully realized on the screen in such influential works as Ivanhoe (1952) and El Cid (1961) which belong to the same late Romantic culture in their music, imagery and themes.
Strong cinematic images of the Middle Ages can be found in European films. Influential European films included the German Nibelungenlied (1924), Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), while in France there were many Joan of Arc sequels.
Historiography and Historiophoty
The historiography and historiophoty of medieval film is one of a new, evolving and dynamic field of study. The relationship between film and history has been a subject of interest since as long as films have been made, however, it was only in the last decade of the 20th century that medievalists paid attention to film as a serious means of learning about the Middle Ages. Until the publication of K.J. Harty's book The Reel Middle Ages (1999) there had been no comprehensive survey of medieval films, and John Aberth's book A Knight at the Movies (2003) can probably be called the first book dedicated solely to the subject of history and medieval history on film. As Arthur Lindly said in 1998 "One could note the absence of books by medievalists as well as books of any kind devoted to medieval film," however he prophetically observed "The situation may be beginning to change".
At over 900 films listed by Harty in 1999 it is beyond the scope of this article to create a complete list. Listed here are some of the best and most significant films in both quality and historical accuracy.
Sorted by date.
|1928||The Passion of Joan of Arc||||France||||Joan of Arc. The film was so powerful that it was initially banned in England.|
|1938||The Adventures of Robin Hood||||USA||||Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard's absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army.|
|1938||Alexander Nevsky||||USSR||||Russians defend against invading German Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades of the 13th century.|
|1957||The Seventh Seal||||Sweden||||14th-century Sweden, about a knight returning from a crusade playing a chess game with death during the Black Plague.|
|1960||The Virgin Spring||||Sweden||||Story of Christian medieval Swedish family whose daughter is raped by vagabonds. Directed by Ingmar Bergman.|
|1961||El Cid||||USA||||Epic film of the legendary Spanish hero.|
|1964||Becket||||USA||||Based on Jean Anouilh's play about Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket and King Henry II of England.|
|1965||The War Lord||||USA||||Based on Leslie Stevens' The Lovers. Charlton Heston is a knight invoking the "right" to sleep with another man's bride on their wedding night.|
|1966||A Man for All Seasons||||UK||||The story of St. Thomas More.|
|1966||Andrei Rublev||||USSR||||Life of Andrei Rublev the great 15th century Russian icon painter.|
|1968||The Lion in Winter||||UK||||King Henry II's three sons all want to inherit the throne. His sons and wife Eleanor of Aquitaine variously plot. Based around the events of the Revolt of 1173-1174.|
|1976||The Message||||UK/Lebanon||||Also known as Mohammad, Messenger of God. Tagline: The Story of Islam.|
|1982||The Return of Martin Guerre||||France||||Fictional story, based on actual trial records about an impostor in 16th century Southern France.|
|1986||The Name of the Rose||||France||||Based on the novel by Umberto Eco.|
|1988||The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey||||New Zealand||||Seeking relief from the Black Death, guided by a boy's vision, people dig a tunnel from 14th century England to 20th century New Zealand.|
- John Aberth, A Knight at the Movies: Medieval History on Film, 2003, ISBN 0415938864.
- Filmographies and Bibliographies
- K.J. Harty, The Reel Middle Ages: American, Western and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Asian films about Medieval Europe, 1999, ISBN 0786405414. The first comprehensive survey of films of the European Middle Ages. Over 900 films.
- Paul Halsall, Medieval History in the Movies Online list of over 200 movies depicting Medieval history. From the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.
- Paul Halsall, Medieval Movies Bibliography as part of class below.
- David J. Williams, "Medieval Movies: A Filmography", Film & History 29:1-2 (1999):20-32.
- Annotated Catalog of Medieval and Renaissance Films & Bibliography from the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
- University classes
- HIST 3932: Myth, Epic, and Romance: Medieval History in Film History class at University of North Florida by Paul Halsall. Last retrieved Jan. 2005
- HIST 4950: The Medieval World in Film History class at Georgia College & State University by Dr. Deborah Vess. Last retrieved Jan. 2005
- HIST 3931: The Middle Ages in Film History class at University of Florida by Dr. Nina Caputo. Last retrieved Jan. 2005
- Arthur Lindley, "The ahistoricism of medieval film", from Screening The Past Journal.
- Paul Halsall, "Thinking about Historical Film", University of North Florida.
- David J. Williams, "Looking at the Middle Ages in the Cinema: An Overview." Film & History 29:1-2 (1999): 8-19.
- Martha Driver, "Writing About Medieval Movies: Authenticity and History.", Film & History 29:1-2 (1999):5-7.
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