20: Second Decade on Film

20: Second Decade on Film thumbnail

Since the beginning of film as a narrative and artistic medium, historical events and eras have been popular subjects for filmmakers. The decade of the 1810s, however, has not tended to show up in movies or on TV as frequently or consistently as other eras—but there are still plenty of examples of the second decade on film. Beginning in the 1920s with French filmmaker Abel Gance, depictions of the 1810s, many involving Napoleon or adaptations of popular and classic novels, have woven their way through the history of visual media with varying results. From Miriam Hopkins’s Technicolor turn as Becky Sharp in 1935 to Paul Dano as Pierre Bezhukov in the 2016 miniseries War and Peace, the analysis of the second decade in film covers a lot of fun and interesting ground.

In this episode, a slight departure from the usual emphasis on factual events, historian Sean Munger takes you on a brief tour of the 1810s as they appear on the screen. Films and shows discussed include Ridley Scott’s The Duellists, the 2002 European-made Napoleon miniseries, the classic 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, as well as lesser-known (and less historically serious) efforts like Woody Allen’s Love and Death or the whimsical sendup Lost in Austen. If you’re a fan of the period and you’d like to see it on screen, this episode may give you some new items to add to your Netflix list!

At the website for this episode, you can view YouTube videos for trailers and/or scenes from all the films and shows discussed here.

Correction: in the episode, actress Jennifer Ehle is incorrectly identified as “Elizabeth Ehle.” My apologies to Ms. Ehle.

(Some background music for this episode licensed CC3.0 by Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston).