Sunday, 15 November 2009
Train of thought
Ever been to the Museum of Transport in Glasgow? As a kid, obviously the preserved steam engines are the highlight. As a former kid, they still look impressive and are still, along with the other exhibits, great as a way of looking back to a past age, but their bright colours of blue, yellow and green somehow make it hard to imagine them being real. Maybe it's because most times one sees a steam train nowadays is in an old black-and-white film or photo, it's as if they really were monochromatic.
I know that pretty much every kid has at least a passing acquaintance with certain brightly coloured fictional locomotives, but I guess, subconsciously if not consciously, it seems as if their bright colours are as much a fantasy as their big grey faces.
Now, despite some momentary lapses on the part of some of my fellow students of 18th century Scotland, I think most people would think if a train showed up in a film set in 1745 they'd realise this was wrong. And yet, there was a railway *line* near Edinburgh from 1722, and one of the battles of the 1745 Jacobite uprising was fought along one! The line was used not by locomotives but by horses pulling wagons.
So, if someone made a film which included the battle, it would be more *accurate* to include the railway line, but it would be more *believable* not to... unless the film also included a scene with a horse pulling a wagon along the line. Which is more important? To portray history as it really was and risk people being pulled out of the film when they think you've made a mistake, or to change the facts so the audience will think you're remaining historically accurate?