Friday, July 28, 2023

Alternate History - Revisiting Personal Cinematic Landscape

I’ve always preferred alternate history movies to the more strictly historical ones. With historical films, we know how it ends. Some movies use it to their advantage, like Titanic (1997). The entire audience is aware that the ship will sink in the end. The movie uses that knowledge to make everything seem a little more intense. Everything feels like a necessary moment because those moments will end. I find most historical flicks don’t do the same thing. As a result, they mostly feel boring to me.
In alternate history films there’s just enough of a tweak to keep you guessing – even when there’s no other genre mixed in.
Surely, no one knew how X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) or Watchmen (2009) would end. Yet both stories, as I mentioned in my original personal cinematic landscape articles, show us the state of our history if we were to drop in superheroes.
I also mentioned Inglourious Basterds and Red Dawn. In the former, we got to see a history that brought Hitler a much swifter death, while Red Dawn turned the cold war hot on our shores. Both gave us a look into well-known areas of our history, but we didn’t have a clue where they were going to end up. It maked them more exciting and, I’ll say it again, I will never tire of watching Hitler and Nazi’s get their comeuppance.
The four films I mentioned in my original article are also four of the most thought of films when someone brings up alternate history. It’s almost expected that they appear as part of my landscape.
Over the years there’s only been one more film that affects how I feel about the alternate history genre, and some people are going to find it a hell of stretch. The movie I need to add to the list is Klaus (2019).

I’m not suggesting that Santa Claus is real. However, his lore is. It’s been passed down across the world, from culture to culture. From Turkey to the Netherlands, his story has been told. Whether he’s a saint or a mythical being, most cultures that celebrate Christmas have their own version of jolly old Saint Nick.
Klaus offers a new take on Santa Claus that portrays it as a kind of history lesson. To the best of my knowledge, it’s a completely new take on the lore, and it’s framed as someone telling us about it.
When it comes to tales told in various cultures, it’s extremely important to who they are as people. The stories told in each area, that are untouched by other cultures and are handed down, are unique. What people in those areas believe and, in some cases, how they act comes from those very stories.
As a result, I would argue that lore is absolutely an important aspect of history.
In this case, Klaus gives us an alternate look at Norwegian lore by telling us the story of a postman that encounters a desolate toymaker in Smeerensburg, which is a town based on a whaling settlement that was located on Svalbard Island. He convinces the man to take on a Santa Claus role, uniting the otherwise warring town.
Klaus has become, by far, my favorite holiday movie. It’s also changed the way I look at alternate history as it pertains to folklore and mythology. With this new view, there are movies I would consider part of the alternate history genre that I never would have considered before. Without it, my viewpoint of the genre would be much narrower.

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