Are filmmakers historians in our society and what impact has the values and attitudes of the society, in particular of women, had on their interpretations and re-interpretations of the historical personality Elizabeth I in film between 1950 and the present day?.
Historic film has played and enormous role over the past fifty years in communicating ideas and commentary on issues in history to a mass audience. However, despite the popularity of film historians tend to dismiss it as a historical medium because of its unreliability and imaginative nature. Looking further into preliminary research for the topic I began to note the responsibility that a filmmaker has in portraying a piece of history, and difference in the way they have interpreted and re-interpreted history because of their subjectivity. .
Thus, I began to question the nature of history from a post modernist viewpoint, that all history is interpretation based on social context, the role of the media in history (ultimately 'Who are the Historians?) and the contrasting approaches to a historical personality, issue or event.
This essay assumes that though the past does exist, as does the truth, all history is an interpretation of the historian because of ingrained contextual socio-political values. It does not examine how accurate each interpretation is, but how changing values in society have influenced various interpretations. It considers the implications of the filmmaker as a historian, because of the popularity of film and artistic nature of their work, questioning their responsibility to objectivity and their audience. It then goes further to look at how they have been affected by their own circumstances. By examining three different films, each created at a different time between 1950 and now, this essay contrasts the portrayals of Elizabeth I in relation to societies views on women, feminism being one of the most controversial and fluid concepts of the latter twentieth century.