Tag Archives: Biographical film

5 Films Based on Remarkable True Stories

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and there are many interesting films of this or last year which are based on true stories, including Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Tesla, Hillbilly Elegy, The Dig and The Mauritanian. Crime and war films are often inspired by real stories (Catch Me If You Can [2002], The Pianist [2002]) and I previously compiled a list of 25 “Must-See” Biographical Films (see also my related list of 5 Great Films About Adventurers Based on Real Stories). Below are five films which were based on, or inspired by, real stories which, in turn, are simply remarkable.

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I. The Sound of Music [1965]

The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummermight have been a book and a theatrical musical once, but it was also based on an incredible true story. In her memoir titled The Story of the Trapp Family Singers [1949], Maria von Trapp tells the story of her family who originally came from Salzburg, Austria, but who were then forced to cross borders and emigrate to America to escape Nazi persecutions in Europe.

Even though the true story was dramatized substantially for the film, it remained true in essence. So, in reality, a young woman from a religious background did come to work in the Trapp family, but not as a governess, but as a tutor to one of the children (who were in reality ten in number, not seven as in the film). Georg von Trapp was the father in the family, and Maria (as this was the name of the woman/the author) came to love the children first (and only then the father) (source). Georg, who was in reality a much kinder person than in the film, did marry Maria, and the family eventually travelled to Italy and America, and not to Switzerland as in the film. The Sound of Music is also not the only film to be based on Maria von Trapp’s memoir. Previously, Wolfgang Liebeneiner directed a German film The Trapp Family [1956], which was also based on The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.

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“At Eternity’s Gate” Trailer

This film is about the final days of Vincent Van Gogh; is directed by Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007)); and stars Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project” (2016)), Rupert Friend (“Pride & Prejudice” (2005)), Oscar Isaac (“The Promise” (2016)), Mads Mikkelsen (“A Royal Affair (2012)) and Mathieu Amalric (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly“); the director knows something about making films about artists since he previously directed “Basquiat” (1996), a film about a postmodernist artist in New York; see also my list of 20 Fascinating Films about Visual Art, which also features “Basquiat” and many other notable movies about painters, their artistry and hardships. 

20 Fascinating Films about Visual Art

Andrei Rublev Poster1. Andrei Rublev (1966) 

It will be a crime not to begin this list with Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece “Andrei Rublev“. A paragraph will not be sufficient to do justice to this largely black-and-white film which lasts around three hours, and, in some way, it is a difficult watch. Andrei Rublev was a 15th century icon painter living in medieval Russia, and the film follows his journey as he leaves Andronikov Monastery with two other monks, travelling to Moscow. What follows is the depiction of medieval Russian rituals, Tatars’ invasion, Andrei’s attempts to protect a simple-minded girl, among others events. Some stunning iconography by Rublev is also on display, including “The Holy Trinity” and “Christ, the Redeemer“, at the end. “Andrei Rublev” is a complex work of art which masterfully conveys the messages on morality, religion and artistic freedom. On such a film, one can simply say that it is not merely a movie but one of a kind cinematic experience. 

Seraphine Poster 2. Seraphine (2008)

This film, which is based on a true story of Seraphine Louis and which won 7 Cesar Awards, is an exquisite and quietly powerful portrayal of an awakening painter. Seraphine (Yolande Moreau) is a naively eccentric, deeply religious woman devoid of social graces and who works as a cleaner in a house in Senlis, France. When a new tenant from Germany, Mr. Uhde, an art expert, arrives to stay at the house he is impressed by Seraphine’s natures mortes. A convincing performance by the leading actress makes this film poignant and heart-felt, even if it is overlong. This interesting story is proof that an artistic genius can be found even in most unexpected of places.  Read more

“The Mercy” Mini-Review

The Mercy PosterThe Mercy (2018)

There is method in his madness. This is the way some were able to characterise Donald Crowhurst’s insane desire and, ultimately, attempt to finish a single-handed, non-stop round-the world trip – the Golden Glove (Yacht) Race sponsored by Sunday Times in 1968. Completely amateur, Crowhurst, nevertheless, entered the race, and, overcome with growing boat problems and despair, started falsifying his positions in log books, to make it appear as though he is making an excellent progress in the race. The fascinating bit is that the film is based on a real story, which has so far been the subject of numerous books and other films (for example, see, probably, a better recent film “Crowhurst” (2018)). Despite the cast of Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz in the lead roles in “The Mercy“, the film never quite manages to raise its sails up, portraying a very predictable (to the point of boring) voyage, with an almost unconvincing and foolish “hero”-character at its centre. 

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“The Founder” Review

founder_xlgThe Founder (2016)

“It’s not just the system, Dick. It’s the name. That glorious name, McDonald’s. It could be anything you want it to be…it’s limitless, it’s wide open…it sounds like…America” (Ray Kroc).

The title sounds like something on the topic of religion, doesn’t? Well, apparently not in the times we live in. The McDonald brothers’ success was to the 1950s what the social network’s success was to the 2000s. The story of McDonald’s, one of the most recognised food chains in the world, is sure to fascinate and intrigue. Not only “The Founder” is based on a true story, but it has a stellar performance by Michael Keaton (“Batman Returns” (1992), “Birdman” (2014)) in the role of Ray Kroc, who takes the McDonald brothers’ concept of a fast restaurant service and turns it into a global fast food empire. The year is 1954, and Kroc, a milk-shake mixer salesman, meets Richard and Maurice McDonald, two brothers who run a food joint focusing on three specific menu items and on the rapidity of their service. Kroc has never seen anything like this before, and proposes to the brothers a deal.

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“Hacksaw Ridge” Review

hacksaw0001Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

**SPOILER ALERT**

An inspiring story about an unconventional hero? A graphic tale of the brutality of a war? A touching and believable love story? Mel Gibson can do it all, and, believe it or not – do it brilliantly – all in the same movie. His latest film “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a kind, deeply-religious young man who also happens to be a conscientious objector, enlisting to serve in an army, while having a deep conviction against the commission of violence/murder and would not even touch a gun. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director, “Hacksaw Ridge” is the kind of a film which one can easily define as “great”: a moving, heart-felt story is matched by a dedicated director and a committed actor who do their work exceptionally well.

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