Based on a true story.
Inspired by actual events.
I'm not sure if it was an actual trend in 2010 or just a common trait of the few movies that I saw, but phrases like those above seemed to appear on screen in quite a lot of films, including 127 Hours, Conviction, Howl, Carlos, North Face, and even more that I didn't see, such as Made in Dagenham, Casino Jack, Eat Pray Love, I Love You Philip Morris, Mesrine: Killer Instinct & Public Enemy #1, and Nowhere Boy, to name only a few (and to say nothing of the tricky-truthy documentaries like I'm Still Here, Catfish, and Exit Through the Gift Shop).
Are there this many films based on true events every year and I only noticed it in 2010, or is this a newly developing trend? Either possibility would surprise me. If this is common every year, why have I not picked up on it so acutely, particularly considering I usually see twice as many movies as I did in 2010, and that I have a running series about movies based on real life? On the other hand, if this is a newly developing trend - why?
I'm almost positive it's the former, that this is not a new thing at all, but in any case it doesn't matter. I'm always more interested in how these films depict the truth they are meant to represent and, in doing so, how they shape our understanding and perspective on past events. For example, when I ask you to imagine the sinking of the Titanic, what images come to your mind? What about Roman gladiator fighting in the Colosseum? What do you picture when you think of John Smith and Pocahontas, or the Zodiac killer who terrorized San Francisco, or the fate of United Flight 93, or the storming of Omaha Beach on D-Day?
You see where I'm going with this: for many people, films based on true events serve as the primary influence on the subconscious in remembering or imagining those events. If you've seen those movies - Titanic, Gladiator, The New World, Zodiac, United 93, Saving Private Ryan - you bring their images to mind without even realizing it, particularly when a.) the images are astonishingly rendered (Titanic), and b.) there are few other film adaptations, documentaries, or other visual aids to provide alternative images in your mind (United 93). In essence, perception becomes reality; what we see becomes what actually happened, even if it didn't actually happen.
But does it matter when those images and those memories produce a reality that didn't actually exist? Where does the truth end and the dramatization begin, and is the truth ever interesting enough to stand on its own, free of embellishment? I'm sure it's a question as old as film itself - as art itself, really - but I'd like to consider it in the context of five films I saw in the last few months of 2010: The Social Network, The Fighter, Fair Game, The King's Speech, and All Good Things.