Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision

Natalie Zemon Davis, Author Harvard University Press $25 (164p) ISBN 978-0-674-00444-3
A history professor at Princeton University, Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre; Women on the Margins) is also a seasoned critic of historical film. With Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision, she discusses how movies represent history differently than books do. Can narrative films achieve the accuracy and authenticity that writers can? ""Can there be lively cinematic equivalents to what prose histories try to accomplish in prefaces, bibliographies, and notes and through their modifying and qualifying words `perhaps,' `maybe,' and `we are uncertain about'?"" In order to answer these questions, Davis looks at a handful of films that have attempted to capture themes of slavery, struggle and rebellion (Spartacus, Burn!, The Last Supper, Amistad and Beloved) and analyzes the devices they've used to convey history, as they understand and wish to express it. It is her hope that ""with patience, imagination, and experimentation, historical narration through film could become both more dramatic and more faithful to the sources from the past."" (Harvard Univ., $22.95 176p ISBN 0-674-00444-2; Sept.) Given that Shakespeare is one of the world's most famous interpreters of history, it seems fitting that the 14 academics whose essays form Shakespeare, Film, Fin de Si cle believe that the recent surge of Shakespearean films (Shakespeare in Love, Hamlet, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet) reflects modern man's association of millennium-sized issues with the Bard himself. Edited by Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray (respectively, a reader and a lecturer in English at Queen's University of Belfast), the volume tackles such topics as advancing technology, families at risk and cultural intolerance. Included among the provocative pieces is a gem of an interview with Kenneth Branagh. (St. Martin's, $42 272p ISBN 0-312-23148-2; Aug.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-679-31023-5
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-674-00821-2
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