6 Historical Films Inspired by Real-Life 18th-Century Women
There is no end to the real-life events, stories and people that may inspire writers, directors and film producers. Historical genre films have been a staple of the film industry since its inception, and if the success of many period films is any indication, it's not a genre that will disappear anytime soon. I've compiled a list of some of my favorite historical films inspired by real-life 18th century women and their stories. Pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, and enjoy!
L'Anglaise et le duc (2001)
L'Anglaise et le duc (English title: The Lady and the Duke) is inspired by the experiences of Gracie Elliot, a Scottish woman who became the mistress of the duc de Orleans in the years leading up to the French Revolution; her actions and eventual arrest during the French Revolution form the basis of her posthumously published (and highly colorful) memoir, "Journal of My Life During the French Revolution." This film focuses on Elliot's experiences during the Reign of Terror and features an intriguing aesthetic inspired by contemporary paintings which gives the film a memorable and distinct look.
Belle is inspired by the real life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was born the daughter of an enslaved African woman and a British naval officer. Belle was taken by her father to England when she was only 4 years old and left in the care of his uncle and aunt, who raised her as a free woman in their aristocratic household. The film interprets Belle's coming-of-age through the an emphasis on the infamous Zong Massacre ruling, over which her uncle presided; the film does play rather fast and loose with the historical timeline, it features some excellent performances, beautiful visuals, and a look at an often-ignored element of British history.
The Duchess (2008)
The Duchess is inspired by the life of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, one of the most well-known English socialites and icons of her era. The duchess of Devonshire's strained marriage, her affair with Charles Grey and the dynamics between the duchess, her husband and Elizabeth Foster form the basis of the film's dramatically driven story. A particularly emotional performance from Keira Knightley is the highlight of the film, although the gorgeous costumes are certainly something you won't want to miss, either.
Mozart's Sister (2010)
Nannerl, la sœur de Mozart (English Title: Mozart's Sister) is inspired by the life of Maria Anna Mozart, the elder sister to Amadeus Mozart. "Loosely inspired" is definitely key here, for the premise of the film focuses on an invented relationship between Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl) and Louise de France, the lonely13-year old daughter of Louis XV. Through this friendship, Nannerl connects with the Dauphin of France, who encourages her interest in music (and perhaps, something more) even as her father forbids her to carry her career further than singing and harpsichord playing to bring in income for her family. If you're looking for an accurate depiction of Maria Anna's life, this isn't it--like Belle, it plays with historical facts and timelines to present a constructive look at the place of women in 18th-century society. The end result is a satisfying--if loosely accurate--film.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
The Favourite (2018)
The Favourite is inspired by the intriguing dynamic between Queen Anne of England and her two prominent favorites, Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham. The two women's battle for Queen Anne's affection and status at court comprises most of the film's storyline, which is a darkly comedic blend of history and modern anachronisms that make for a snappy, satirical and highly enjoyable film. Of particular note is Olivia Colman's performance as Queen Anne, which earned her an Academy Award.