Thirty years ago, there never would have been a thought that Steven Spielberg would become one of America's greatest cinematic interpreters of U.S. history. At the time, it was still all about fantasy and science fiction for Spielberg, including an ironic revisionist take on World War II with his misunderstood satire "1941." Once he made "Saving Private Ryan", however, the depictions of battle in the World War II film were forever changed to the point where every one that followed became nothing but pale copycats.
Now that Spielberg has finally completed his take on a small period of Abraham Lincoln's life in "Lincoln", we have to wonder if all the prior depictions of Lincoln are now rendered useless. And that's not an easy statement to make when you have everybody from Henry Fonda, Raymond Massey, Gregory Peck, and Sam Waterston playing Old Abe on film within the last 75 years. We also have to look to the future to see if anybody dares make another depiction of Lincoln as others did World War II following "Ryan."
As it is now, even Disneyland's "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" will be irrevocably changed based on Spielberg finally convincing us that Lincoln didn't have a warm, deep vocal timbre. Yet Disneyland has set such a precedent for how we thought Lincoln sounded, it's likely we won't see a single change there out of respect for tradition. Movies and TV, though, may be a different story.
TV may have to be knocked out completely considering there isn't a single network other than History Channel that would ever again air a miniseries on Lincoln. For movies, we already have Terrence Malick working on producing a film about Lincoln's formative years that gives us insight into what shaped his views. But other than a movie about the so far ignored Lincoln duel with James Shields, how will Lincoln be depicted in the future, if at all?
Spielberg's influence and Daniel Day-Lewis's performance will inevitably change the way future actors depict the way Lincoln talks. In fact, don't be surprised if someone takes it even further and gives Lincoln a higher pitched voice as described in historical documents. Day-Lewis seemed to compromise somewhere in the middle, even if the voice he chose was the only one that could be comfortable without hurting his vocal cords.
As well, expect more brutal depictions of Lincoln that won't be afraid to show such sides thanks to Spielberg breaking the chain. This doesn't mean showing Abe chopping up vampires, particularly because revisionist history films from Seth Grahame-Smith may be dead in the water after thinking they were here to stay. Ultimately, the real truth about Lincoln still has pieces that have been largely ignored through the increasingly venerated films about him in the last 100+ years.
Saying all this, who really has the fortitude to put another foot forward in cinematically depicting Lincoln at the age he is in "Lincoln?" The best way to approach it is for Daniel Day-Lewis to pull a Raymond Massey and show up as Lincoln in future movie projects. Preferably, those other snapshot films would be directed by Spielberg who now seems to stake exclusive claim to any historical subject he decides to take on.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Steven Spielberg