English on the Internet - English Magazine


June 17, 2000

One of the best ways to get used to a new language is to watch TV and films in that language. English is especially good for this, because of the vast numbers of popular films coming out of Hollywood each year. Forgetting, for the moment, the fact that these films are invariable shot in American English and not in English English, I have a warning for you: When you watch a "true story" filmed in Hollywood, do not assume that it has any basis in fact. In the last few weeks, there has been much debate in England about a scandalous new film called "U-571" being shot in Hollywood.

There is a growing catalogue of films in which history has been re-written in Hollywood films. Here are a few good examples:

"The great escape". This was a film based upon the British mass breakout from the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III, during the second world war. The film stars Steve McQueen (an American) in an American lead break out.

Disney's recent "The hunchback of Notre Dame", admittedly a fictional tale, shows the hunchback saving his girl at the end of the film, and the two living happily ever after. In the original tale, the ending is quite a bit sadder.

Disney's recent "Hercules" is also a gross distortion of the original story - many of the amazing feats performed by Disney's Hercules should actually be attributed to a host of lesser known Greek Heroes.

In yet another Disney film, "Pocahontas", there is scant regard to the truth of the matter. Pocahontas was in fact still a very young girl when she died and was buried in England.

What about the film "Amadeus"? A film about a famous Austrian composer, who just happens to have an American accent?

Going back to war films, next year we will see a new film called "Colditz". Colditz was an "escape proof" castle used by the Germans to hold Allied prisoners during the second world war. In the new Hollywood film, I hear that we are going to see Tom Cruise (an American) staring in the American led escape efforts. In reality, there were only 8 Americans in Colditz, none of which ever managed to escape. Many people did escape from Colditz, but these were through British and French lead efforts.

Finally, I'll come back to the new film I mentioned at the start of this article. This is a film called "U-571", about the American navy's heroism in capturing a German U-boat (a submarine) early in the war. The U-boat had a encryption machine on it called the "Enigma" - an almost unbreakable code system. The film goes on to show the brilliance of the American scientists in breaking this code, thus enabling the battle of the Atlantic to be won. The fact that it was the British navy that captured the U-boat (more than a year before the USA entered the war) and British experts who broke the code, doesn't seem to matter to Hollywood.

It seems that, in terms of reporting historical fact, Hollywood is on a par with David Irving.

by Duncan - Great Britain, enjoys writing to penpals from all over the world

If you'd like me to write a particular topic, then email me at dareid@btinternet.com

© June 2000 English on the Internet www.aj.cz