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As if Alive before Us: The Pleasures of Verisimilitude in Biographical Fiction Films

Lehtisalo, Anneli 2011. As if Alive before Us: The Pleasures of Verisimilitude in Biographical Fiction Films. New Readings 11 , pp. 100-117. 10.18573/newreadings.79

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Biographical fiction films often raise questions about the accuracy of a story, the plausibility of a mise en scène or an actor's performance. If a genre is understood as a complex system of expectations and production, the idea of cultural verisimilitude becomes a central feature in the genre of biographical fiction film. Film criticism typically considers the problems that such a generic rule causes. In contrast to that approach, this article discusses the pleasures of verisimilitude. Using one of the first Finnish biopics, Runon kuningas ja muuttolintu (1940) as an example, it examines how verisimilitude forms an essential feature of the film, understood as a biography, and how it ensures an enjoyable cinematic experience. Firstly, I shall suggest that the reconstruction of well-known historical moments in the film creates effects similar to those of the cinema of attractions (Gunning): they revitalise bygone days. Secondly, I shall demonstrate how the film challenges viewers to a knowing game (Rosen), a pleasurable quiz in which they can demonstrate their cultural competence. I suggest that these pleasures of verisimilitude, evident at the time when the genre was just emerging in Finland, could also explain the current persistent fascination with biographical films.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Modern Languages
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CT Biography
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Publisher: Cardiff University Press
ISSN: 1359-7485
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 17 January 2020
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2020 11:25

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