I must confess – I have not seen any of the films mentioned in Dargis’ article. With that said, based on what I have read from Dargis’ article, I strongly believe that filmmakers’ have no responsibility to the truth whatsoever – movies should not have to be historically accurate. It is in the filmmakers’ prerogative to judge whether movies should portray reality to the fullest extent. The only time when movies have to portray reality is when it has been explicitly noted as a documentary.
Films are usually considered as a form of art, and as a form of entertainment – not as a source for information. Many films tend to romanticise or exaggerate events to bring in more viewers or to stand by social mores. This is typically why certain films (related to history) clearly warn viewers that what is portrayed is not necessarily true. For instance, some films attempt this by clearly stating that their film is merely “based on a true story.”
The only striking film that I have seen that pertains to history is The Downfall (2004). The Downfall is a well-received German film that depicts Adolf Hitler’s last days in his underground bunker. The director of the film – Oliver Hirschbiegel attempts to strive for reality as close as possible – indeed, critics rarely criticised the film for historical inaccuracies. However, in an attempt to perhaps attract viewers, the ending of the film was altered to have a more positive outlook. Again, this supports my notion that filmmakers should create new and refreshing scenes, because films are only a source of entertainment.
In a sense, filmmakers have a very different purpose than, say, someone like Mike Daisey – someone who attempts to broadcast facts (the cold truth) to consumers. In his podcasts, he explicitly exaggerates what he had seen in China. Mike Daisey, in no way shape or form attempted to warn viewers that his story would be an exaggeration/dramatisation. Rather, Daisey attempted to pass what was merely a fabrication as a fact. I realise that radio shows may be viewed as a form of entertainment, as seen with War of the Worlds broadcast. However, the radio show (This American Life) that published Daisey’s broadcast claims that “[they] think of the show as journalism.”
Dargis, in her article clearly notes that: “The truth is that we love movies partly because of their lies … It’s journalists and politicians who owe us the truth.” With that in mind, we, the consumers should not expect filmmakers to strive for accuracy. Filmmakers need to recognise that in order to gain the appeal of consumers, glossing over the truth and replacing it with exaggeration/dramatisation is tolerable. For instance, it remains to be seen what may have had happened with The Downfall, if Hirschbiegel chose to incorporate more darking ending. Perhaps critics may have had rejected the film, citing an overly dark mood.