There’s an overused saying about how the best stories are written by real life. No matter how much of an old trope this is, it’s still true for films. Encouraged by the first part of our article we’re looking for further cinematic depictions of interesting, funny, inspiring, obscure or even important historical events. Due to dramatic storytelling certain elements might have been changed or cut from the films, but the point and the general substance remains the same.
Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother were brutally murdered with an axe on the 4th of August, 1892. Their daughter was accused and got locked up in prison. But in the absence of a verdict she was released, and even now after 127 years no suspect was found. This is the origin of a popular (if not necessarily child-friendly) American nursery rhyme: Lizzie Borden took an axe/ gave her mother 40 whacks/ When she saw what she had done/ she gave her father 41. The story was adapted to film by William Macneill, and through our leads, Kirsten Stewart and Chloe Sevigny not only do we get to see the circumstances of the mysterious crime, but also the passionate lesbian relationship of "mistress" and "servant".
Battle of Sexes (2017)
In 1973 Bobby Riggs, onetime Wimbledon winner challenged world-championship leader Billie Jean King, because he claimed women were much worse tennis players than men. Directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, this film depicting this important (for sports also) milestone starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell. The film has three layers: social critique, analysing the pervasive homophobia and male chauvinism in sports and Billie’s (who’s living in a heterosexual marriage) lesbian relationship with her hairdresser. Most critics only praise the arc about her private life, but the film is a worthy watch for sports fans and those interested in social justice too.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
We’re in the ’70-’80-es, when New York-based writer, Lee Israel’s latest book proves to be a huge flop, causing her popularity to dwindle, her publisher turning her away and landing her in deep financial trouble. While trying to sell all her belongings that would worth a dime she finds a thank-you note from Katherine Hepburn. She realises that collectors would pay fortunes for never-before-seen manuscripts of dead celebrities, so she starts to forge similar notes. She turns out to be very good at this not-at-all-legal business, the letters are interesting, and reflect the actors’ personalities well. But of course getting caught is inevitable, and it has dire consequences. Lee’s only friend, Jack Hock, the aging gay drug dealer helps her all along. The best part of the film are the two main characters’ development, their feelings and personalities.
Director Marie Heller took a relatively big risk by telling a story of a somewhat obscure person, someone who starts out as rather unsympathetic, with an actress who we haven’t really seen in dramas before. But Melissa McCarthy’s acting is fantastic, the film’s atmosphere is strong and despite all its sadness and strangeness it leaves us with a positive feeling.
The film tells the story of Aileen Wuornos, the first known female serial killer of the USA. She killed seven men over a year, was sentenced to death in 1992 and executed in 2002. Patty Jenkins’ film was released in 2003, only a year after her death.
Charlize Theron plays Aileen who, after a rough childhood, makes her living as a prostitute. Her clients are mostly truckers, so she’s being swept from motel to motel, bar to bar. It’s in a bar where she meets Shelby (Christina Ricci of the Addams Family fame) and they fall in love. Their relationship – besides the murders – is the main theme of the film, and the way we get the most insight into their personalities. One of Aileen’s clients turns out to be a serial killer who murders his victims brutally, with a saw. She kills him out of self-defence, but from then on she becomes a murderer too. She kills six more men, no longer driven by self-defence, before she’s arrested.
Monster is the story of a person who wanted to feel special all her life, and was expecting this from the men who only used her for sex. A person starved for love who had all her humanity and morality stomped out by the world, by the things she went through and the people she met. No matter how much we might feel like the film is trying to make us sympathise with her, it never absolves Aileen and doesn’t use her hard life to excuse the horrible acts she committed.
The film might be hard to stomach!
Translated by Zsófia Ziaja