Anne Applebaum, Washington Post
"It's based on a true story." Or "It's truth, but stranger than fiction." Or even: "You couldn't make it up." When Peter Weir gets sent film scripts these days, most of them advertise themselves as "true." That wasn't always the case: Weir (who made "Gallipoli," "Witness," "Master and Commander") dates the tilt away from fiction and toward "fact" back to Sept. 11, 2001, the day reality did suddenly seem "exactly like a Hollywood movie."
The growth of reality television surely explains the change, too. So is Hollywood's bottom line. "Reality is a brand which people can sell" says Peter Morgan, who wrote the script for "The Queen" - a movie based on the (true) story of the Princess of Wales: "If people need to explain what a film is about, the film stands very little chance of surviving." In a world where so many movies, books and television programs jostle for attention, familiar historical stories - World War II, Watergate - get an extra boost. True, familiar and recent stories are even better. The tale of that Harvard student who invented Facebook and is now a billionaire comes to mind. So does the saga of the hiker who cut off his arm.
But what about stories that are true but totally unfamiliar? Do we - can we - still watch people in real situations of a kind we've never thought about before? As it happens, Weir's latest movie, "The Way Back," might answer this question.
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