history essay

History Sample Essay

In current age of ubiquitous spread of mass culture, cinema as its most popular and widespread carrier is a rich source of information; moreover, it can be even said that the movie is the mirror of the history because every time period has it’s the most prominent movies which depict reality in rather interesting and realistic way. It is a well-known fact that in a world of rapidly evolving technology and the rapid pace of life, when the printed word, unfortunately, is relegated to the background, the movie takes on a special role in shaping the world outlook of whole generations. Reality in art culture is the most important aesthetic and philosophical problem. Version of reality in a “big staged life” – in particular, on the screen – defines our relationship to reality and this reality by itself. All of us know that our whole life is stereotyped, and whatever is our attitude to stereotypes, they became an evaluative criterion of reality, while many judgments about historical facts, events, personalities, the own and other peoples are made on their base. So, cinema, being mouthpiece of the most common and widespread stereotypes, is a very bright example of the practical application of stereotypical thinking. But even in such a context, many movies can give their viewers rather realistic picture of past life, motivating people to explore the most interesting moments using historical evidences and documents. Thus, the thesis of the essay is the following: cinema, being a carrier of new information, can not only realistically depict historical events of the past, but it also motivates people to plunge into historical events with more attention and interest, helping people to make a first step in exploring life through the prism different from their ordinary view on events.

Besides the fact that cinema has always been and remains one of the most popular media aimed at a broad audience, from the first minute of its existence, it is ranked among the arts, which it remains still, despite all the controversy that is conducted in this regard. Do not going into details in reflections on the right to existence of a so-called “mass culture,” it should be admitted that the products of Hollywood long won viewers around the world and successfully retain their primacy on the silver screens, despite attempts to resist the spread of American culture, which outpost, in fact, is the “Dream Factory”.

Of course, there exist many American films which greatly depict the history of time period from 1863-2013, but we can not analyze all of them by the reason that it will take thousands of pages; so, we are going to dwell on a film that not only demonstrated historical events from interesting and extraordinary point, but also forced publicity to discuss it in hot debates. The film of our discussion is “Forrest Gump” directed by Robert Zemeckis in 1994. The film is made in several genres because it combined in itself epic and romantic elements, while attentive viewer can also see in it elements of both comedy and drama. The film “Forrest Gump” was created on the base of the Winston Groom’s novel of the same title, but the novel was written in 1986[1]. Being short, we can note that the story presented in the film depicts several not easy decades from the life of Forrest Gump, who is rather naïve and slow-witted man, and who receives an opportunity to witness the changes of the world in the period of the latter half of the XX th century in the United States.

As we know from the history course, the time period of the latter half of the XX th century was full of different events, and the film “Forrest Gump” has a complex plot, while it includes multilevel depiction of events, and is considered to be the film with elements of parable. For instance, focusing on the film’s details, we can say that the movie allows its viewers to learn the history of the United States through its scenes. Many events are mentioned in the film such as segregation, the Vietnam War, flower child movement, the Black Panthers, the Watergate scandal, etc. Even favorite American entertainments such as American football or idols of those times period are not forgotten to be depicted in the plot. Moreover, the film also includes mentioning of the best American movies, quotes of which are widely used in the film (for example, the scene in the camp, where pictures from “Apocalypse Now” to the music of Wagner are used as the background. The film is full of humor, both lying on the surface and veiled, while humor is frankly black and satirical. A huge number of minor characters appear in the frame once, giving people a chance to recognize them.

To continue, the filmmakers used a specific technique of insert of documentary shots for the purpose to create an illusion of reality. For instance, scenes seem to be rather real when Forrest gives an interview to John Lennon, or when he is rewarded to the audiences with four (!) Presidents of the USA. And of course, one of the best scenes is a demonstration of his combat wounds (in the buttocks) to the President Jackson. All scenes are imbued with nostalgia – clothes, cars, houses, and all situations are very carefully recreated. Moreover, the film has also a lot of hints and allusions that can be hardly seen for the first glance. For instance, the wife of the lieutenant looks like Yoko Ono, while “fruit” company whose shareholder is Forrest, has an apple logo (Apple).

In addition, the longer a person watches “Forrest Gump”, the more doubts appear in mental retardation of the main hero. He, who recognizes every person to be a good man and ready to believe to everything said to him, becomes inflexible when his moral principles are threaten by different circumstances and situations.[2] Forrest Gump is able to distinguish good from evil in a very good way, and whenever he opts for good. Of course, it can be said that such a choice seems to be idiotic, unprofitable, absurd, and it is also possible to realize that the main hero’s choice is the only true (if we remember about the conscience, of course). We may decide that the hero has low self-esteem, but it is possible to say that he is a modest man. We may think that he is hayseed, and we can also note that he is responsible and honest. We can conclude that he is a moron, but at the same time we see that he is a sage.

Everything depends on the ability of the person to interpret actions of people around him because every person finds in others those features that disturb him or hurt him, the same situation with the depiction of historical events. If a person knows something about historical period depicted in the movie, he will find many evidences to own thoughts, but if the person knows nothing than he will considers everything to be a truth and will compose the own picture of the described events in a very limited format. So, some people, characterizing the image of Forrest Gump could say that fools are always lucky, but having other attitude to people and surrounding reality, we may say that he deserved it.

The movie is significant in the context of the historical period we are studying because it not only attracts many viewers, but it also opens other side of well-known events. Very often historical documents demonstrate us only facts, dates and dry facts, while we can better understand something and form the own opinion on the base of emotions. Of course, the film can not be considered to be the ultimate truth because filmmakers showed their own subjective position regarding historical events and the place of every hero in them, but such films widen the world outlook of ordinary person, forcing him or her to remember the past events, and maybe even to look for additional details to understand sense of some scenes, words, and components better.

And finally, if we consider the movie “Forrest Gump” carefully, we will enjoy the deepest, fascinating stories about the amazing and beautiful country with a rich history, the country populated by normal people with the same troubles and joys. So, even a foreign viewer, who has never been in the United States, may “touch” the country’s history through watching this film. To add, the film allows people to ponder the eternal truths, to cry and laugh during its watching, and to understand that this film-parable was filmed by a person who sincerely respects, loves and understands his country. Moreover, the filmmakers’ love for the country is not melodramatic scenes, not jingoism, and not politically correct talk shop, but it is sober, ironic, sometimes cynical view of the country’s problems and their causes. And a great desire to understand these problems made the film a subject of many debates from the day of its production till our times.

In conclusion, we have demonstrated that cinema plays a significant role in considering and understanding many historical events. Moreover, we have also proved the thesis that cinema, depicting dry facts and dates in emotional and its specific way made really interested people to begin their own searches of the truth, while it can be also added that cinema even makes much more people researchers and historians in their hearts and minds. We illustrated our discussions by the use of the movie “Forrest Gump”, and demonstrated with its help that it is not always necessary to be a hero, but it always necessary to stay a real man in spite of all hardships and problems on the way to success and survival.

[1] Vicki K. Janik and Emmanuel S. Nelson, Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art, and History: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998).

[2] Owen W. Gilman, Vietnam and the Southern Imagination. (Manchester, England: University Press of Mississippi, 1992).

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