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Films inspired by or based on true events are not reality, but another kind of fiction. Monetarily speaking, it’s another genre of film utilising people, dates and locations we are familiar with in order to generate greater interest in its performance. It sounds critical, and it is a bit, but it’s more observational because there seems to be an alarming increase in this. In fact, the Best Picture Oscar winners of 2010, 2012 and 2013 have all been films inspired by true events, however changed or played with. You could argue that Argo (geddit?) was an unrealistic, pro-American celebratory act of subverting Middle East foreign policy, or say that 12 Years a Slave was really a devised experiment in traumatising your average film audience. These prove that we have such an ingrained notion that every film should treat us to yet another overcoming of adversity. In terms of the biopic, this means fading or cutting to black over a sombre orchestral backdrop whilst displaying text that says for example: “Billy learned to overcome his real life adversity and pass legislative law declaring the end of this 100-minute running time. He died in 2013.”
This ending clause is essentially the same as any other ending of a crafted narrative, and it is inescapable to accurately portray events of the past without embellishing certain aspects of it as well. Watching George VI overcome his oratory stuttering problem in The King’s Speech also makes way for a light-hearted drama with comedic elements concerning the contrasting socio-economic backgrounds between his own and that of his speech therapist. Similarly, seeing the painstaking detail with which the filmmakers recreated the sets and studios of the 1960s in the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, while contrasting that with the familiar love story which is at the same time separate of all that reveals more of a transparency in the filmmaking process, as we cannot watch the Beach Boys founder simply drop LSD and befuddle musicians and bandmates alike for the entire duration of the film. In short, it’s unreal.