As dramas (melodramas?) go that prod and poke and preach, you could certainly see worse than Amma Asante's film Belle, which addresses racism, sexism, and classism in 18th century English society—and in so doing, it addresses the racism, sexism, and classism in our own.

The film spurs on some interesting (and frightening) questions: Did I recognize myself in the antagonists? Did I think that Dido was making trouble rather than demanding due justice? Where is the line between working for reconciliation and betraying a self-righteous savior complex?

For these questions alone, Belle may be worth seeing. But as a historical drama? It doesn't hold up—and in this case, that's a true shame.

The filmmakers freely admit the film is speculation—inspired, really, by a painting. And that's fair enough. Sometimes, for the sake of storytelling, filmmakers should reduce or amplify stories in order to tell them (yes, even historical ones).

But there are times when revisions to history are so excessive that they kill the poignancy of a story.

For Belle, this comes in the form of John Davinier. In the film, Davinier is an aspiring lawyer seeking racial justice in a slavery-plagued world. But in reality, he was a gentleman's steward who probably never saw the grand interior of a high court.

Davinier's statements are more French Revolution than English abolitionism. Any shadow of Christian conviction is not only absent from his character and the film as a whole, but—counter to history—it's usurped by sentiments of the transcendent human spirit and common welfare.

Davinier even juxtaposes himself against his father, the vicar in Dido's parish. While the reverend is ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Tags:
Read These Next
Current IssueBearing Burdens After Obamacare
Bearing Burdens After Obamacare Subscriber Access Only
The future of Christian health care sharing.
TrendingThe Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
The Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
How the former FBI director’s interest in Reinhold Niebuhr shaped his approach to political power.
Editor's PickSix Ways Men Can Support Women’s Discipleship
Six Ways Men Can Support Women’s Discipleship
Male clergy and laity who want to enable women’s ministry often don't know how to get involved or what to do.
Christianity Today
The Exclusion of 'Belle'
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

June 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.