Adapted from the Lissa Evans novel Their Finest Hour and a Half, Their Finest (Lone Scherfig, 2016) is a fictional film based loosely on historical figures and circumstances, as it tells the story of the production of a feature film by the UK Ministry of Information (MOI) in 1940. What, Their Finest quietly asks, is real? What is fake? And what does it matter, if you are at the movies? Joy is real. Tears are real. And other things, too: the tea I sip, the arm of my companion next to me, the chattering women in the row below, the sighing man who has come to the movies alone. The light is real. The darkness, too. Hastie thinks through the implications of a female author of the original monograph, the female director of the current film, and the fictional composite female character Catrin Cole, the screenwriter in the film. The whole of Catrin Cole did and didn't exist before Their Finest. “Catrin Cole” is not a historical figure, hidden or otherwise. She is a composite of fact and fiction, the pieces stitched together to make a whole person. As asserted by producer Stephen Woolley, who initiated the project, Their Finest drew upon the lives of many women writers for the Film Division of the MOI, particularly that of Diana Morgan, the one woman in the Ealing Studios writers’ room.
The Vulnerable Spectator: The Ministry of Information: Parsing the Facts of Fiction
Amelie Hastie has recently contributed essays on teaching film and television to Cine-Files and Flow. The author of two books on women and film history, Cupboards of Curiosity: Women, Recollection and Film History (Duke University Press, 2007) and The Bigamist (BFI, 2009), she is now completing a volume on the 1970s television series Columbo (Duke University Press). She is Professor and current Chair of Film and Media Studies at Amherst College.
Amelie Hastie; The Vulnerable Spectator: The Ministry of Information: Parsing the Facts of Fiction. Film Quarterly 1 September 2017; 71 (1): 65–72. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2017.71.1.65
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