To begin, film can be a dangerous method if audiences’ intend is to study history. Films can really persuade audiences to the direction of the perspective of filmmaker; this can be seen optimistically or pessimistically. If one does not have any formal knowledge of characters in the movie, how one visualize the characters are influenced by the interpretation of the filmmaker themselves. Films can manipulate and control the minds of the audiences; producers can make audiences adore, hate, sympathize or be terrified with specific characters in the film. Furthermore, film assigns specific character for an antagonist or a protagonist. Personally thinking, the film made Arnaud du Tilh, the imposter of Martin Guerre, to look as the protagonist of the film. In comparison to the book, Arnaud appeared to have truly fallen in love with Betrande and acted like a good husband and father to her and her son. Unlike Arnaud “Martin” du Tilh, Pierre Guerre was the character that appeared to be aggressive and money-hungry who did not want to inherit any money to his long lost supposed nephew. But in contrast, films allow audiences to empathize with a character from the past. When viewers create strong relationship with a character, viewers enter the film as if it is part of their life; audiences may believe they indeed understand characters’ action and thoughts. Throughout the film, I came to love, hate, and sympathize “Martin Guerre” du Tilh. I felt attached to the character and had hopes that he was the true Martin Guerre though I knew he was not. I felt the strongest connection to Arnaud when he confessed that the reason why he pretended to be Martin Guerre was because he fell in love with Betrande at the first sight. When the audiences get to see emotions and body language of a character, it creates stronger connection between the audience and the character. Another key disadvantage of learning history through film is that it adds a lot of inaccurate but entertaining twists to make the film more attractive. Unfortunately, some audiences become completely absorbed and believe what is projected without any doubt. Nonetheless, these inaccurate twists bring entertainment and spark to history, luring the audiences’ attention.
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While the film allows us to sympathize and connect with historical characters, books allow audiences to interpret characters to audiences’ perspective. Audiences get to imagine characters rather than being influenced by the visual interpretation the filmmaker projects throughout the story. With film, audiences are trapped with the image that they see in the film; with book, audiences get to imagine visual appearance and personality of a character. In other words, each audience can interpret the storyline and the characters on their perspective. In the book, The Return of Martin Guerre, Arnaud du Tilh appeared to be more as an antagonist rather than a protagonist as interpreted in the film. Since the book focused on broader issue; for example, explaining how Guerre family settled in Artigat and the life of Bertrande, Arnaud du Tilh did not seem as important character as shown in the film. I could only imagine him to be a fraudulent, pretending to be Martin Guerre to take the family’s inheritance. Furthermore, unlike the film, where it focuses on “Martin” du Tilh and Betrande de Rols, the book went beyond and explained the lives of other characters. For instance, Jean de Coras, the Toulouse judge who documented the infamous trial of the Sixteenth Century. Like Davis mentions in the preface of her book, she explains that the film failed to point out some historical record of the case such as the abandonment of the Basque background of the Guerres, and the rising of Protestantism from Catholicism in the rural area. Regarding accuracy, books always reveal the underlying historical truths broader and more accurately than films can ever. Written work explains all the possible details that most films ignore due to its dullness and the time limit. Learning history through written works, in general, seem more reliable and accurate compare to films produced for mass audience.
Essentially, the film Le Retour de Martin Guerre is mostly true, except the fictional account of Bertrande’s motives at the end of the trial. In the book, Arnaud du Tilh insisted on being the real Martin Guerre till his death. Bertrande, in the end of the film, confesses that Arnaud’s eyes told her to give up and admit the newly claimed Martin as real Martin Guerre. In addition, Davis, a script consultant of the film, decided to write a more scholarly version of Martin Guerre after producing the film to assure a more historically accurate and detail work is available to public. However, she mentions in the introduction that she tried to look beyond the historical facts to unravel and understand the motivation behind the characters’ pursuit. This might input Davis’s opinion on possibilities and ideas that Betrande knew that the new “Martin Guerre” was not her husband and secretively agreed to help him become Martin Guerre. But essentially, this is only a theoretical guess and no one really knows if Betrande actually knew Arnaud du Tilh was her husband or not.
Personally I prefer the film over the book. The book was dull and uninteresting than the film. The film made me think the storyline is actually entertaining. The suspense created in the film really made me wonder if the man that claimed to be Martin Guerre, was indeed himself – though I knew he was a fraudulent prior to watching the film. The film made the whole historical phenomenon to look real -the atmosphere, buildings, and even the lives of townsmen of Pyrenean village of Artigat seemed real. These really helped me to connect with the characters and the plot. Furthermore, media sources in general are a great way to introduce learners to historical events. Though there can be certain historical flaws, it still gives audiences a general storyline and visual interpretation of how life looked in certain periods. For example, the film, Le Retour de Martin Guerre, really presented the peasant life in the Sixteenth Century in France, while exhibiting the case of Martin Guerre. A person can say that the movie is lacking historical detail; however, the meaning, lesson, and the essence of the storyline were presented in the movie. It is my opinion, the film could be rather boring and long if all the historical details were added. Unlike the book, audiences get to see and learn the life of the peasants. Although both reading the book and viewing the film helped me enhanced my understanding of the historical event, I would choose to show the film if I had to teach history to students. Reading a historical book may not be as thrilling as watching a film and students might not get enough messages from the book as they are supposed to. But prior to or after viewing the film, I would teach the students some foundation and historical flaws which would help them learn the knowledge of the historical event and characters.
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In The Return of Martin Guerre, Davis went beyond the historical facts and tried to comprehend the possibilities behind the characters’ actions and pursuits. Both the film and the print amazingly delivered the historical information of the infamous case of Martin Guerre, a man who lived three years of another man’s life by cheating the village of Artigat. Unlike many other historical films, Le Retour de Martin Guerre remained mostly true to the historical facts and told the audiences a fiction-like real story in the Sixteenth Century. Both mediums did excellent job informing historical occurrence to different types of learners. The book allowed us to learn broader and deeper into the roots of the content and taught audiences more in-depth view of each characters. However, my opinion is that the film did even better job at communicating the message of the content to audiences in such a short time limit.
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