From the #HistoricalResearch Files: PETERLOO, the Movie.
At my house, tastes in movies and television shows often differ.
I’ve been dodging The Irishman for weeks now, while my husband has watched it four or five times. All 3+ hours of it! My son-in-law said the cast includes every actor who ever appeared in a gangster movie in the last thirty years. Which may be why my husband likes it so much.
I prefer watching mysteries and/or historical stories set in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So I was happy to stumble across the film “Peterloo” on Amazon Prime.
Have you seen it?
If you’re familiar with your Regency history, Peterloo refers to the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, when armed soldiers dispersed a peaceful rally in Manchester, England. Several innocent people were brutally killed. A crowd of thousands had gathered in support of voting rights and parliamentary representation for the city of Manchester. The Corn Laws, a tariff on imported grain, had brought about price hikes and famine.
For historical authors, re-enactors, and fans of history, the staging and costuming were marvelous. This was not the drawing- and ballroom world of Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer, though. The film starts with a working-class Waterloo veteran returning home to his family’s lodgings where his mother is hard at work making pies to sell. The middle and upper class characters only appear as political players, harsh magistrates and military leaders. And the Regent, George IV, has brief appearances as a malevolent narcissist. It’s a wonder his rule survived.
Alas, besides the excellent depiction of the times and the lead up to this historical event, there’s not much story to this story. Not much depth either to the characterization of the upper classes. The story is very much told from the point of view of the suffering working classes.
No heroes, no interesting subplots, no romance. None of the usual exercises of artistic license that keep the story moving and the viewer emotionally engaged. The film was fascinating–I particularly liked the scene in the newspaper office. But it was also tedious and long.
If you’re an author writing in this period, it’s definitely worth seeing. But, if you’re interested in the era and want story with your historical setting, a better viewing choice is the series “Taboo“, with Tom Hardy.
Have you seen Peterloo? If yes, did you like it?
Image: Wikimedia Commons