Minor Thoughts from me to you

My Favorite Medieval Film Is A Knight’s Tale →

Not mine personally, you understand. This is the opinion of Michael Livingston, writing at Tor.com. And he makes a good point about using ahistorical means to communicate historical truths.

The scene now shifts to opening credits that unfold over scenes of the tournament and its crowd … all set to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

A lot of critics were thrown at this point: they complained that using a soundtrack of classic rock for a movie that is set in the 1370s is tremendously anachronistic.

They’re quite right. The music of Queen is about six centuries off the mark for the movie’s setting. At the same time, as the director himself rightly pointed out, a traditional symphonic score would also be pretty damn anachronistic, even if we don’t think of it that way. There were no symphonies in the fourteenth century, after all.

The anachronism is just getting started, though, and how it happens shows that there’s something important at work here: before we know what’s happening, Queen isn’t just the background soundtrack for the audience: it’s what the tournament crowd itself is singing. And they’re singing it while doing the wave, eating turkey legs, and waving banners in support of one knight or another. Not one bit of it is accurate to history, yet it’s oh so perfectly historical.

Because we don’t live in the fourteenth century, we don’t have the same context for a historically accurate jousting as a person would have had back then. A tournament back in the day was like the Super Bowl, but a wholly accurate representation of the event would not give us that same sense. Rather than pulling us into the moment, the full truth would push us out of it: rather than fostering the connection between the present and the past, it would have emphasized the separation. So Helgeland split the difference: he included tons of historical accuracies with non-historical familiarities.

It’s brilliant and delightful fun.

This entry was tagged. Movies