The recent Oscar winner “Bridge of Spies” (Best Supporting Actor for Mark Rylance) is set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, during the Cold War. Part of the movie is set in Berlin, before and after the Wall between east and west is built. In one scene two characters (one of them played by Tom Hanks) are walking past a cinema which has a number of movie titles displayed above the entrance. Most of these titles are in German, but one of them is “Spartacus” (which was released in 1960 and also won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, for Peter Ustinov). It’s the kind of attention to detail that pleases me when watching anything set in the past. Sites like IMDB often report the anachronisms that appear, like the sight of TV aerials or cars in films set before the 20th Century. It’s understandable, but this made me think of the opposite: an incidental nod to the past which could be missed just as easily as a satellite dish on the roof of “Bleak House”.
Two other movies come to mind which include a reference to their historical setting by showing a cinema with an appropriate current attraction. It happens in “Milk” (also an Oscar winner, Best Actor for Sean Penn) where we see a cinema advertising “The Poseidon Adventure” (this places the action around 1972). It also happens in “Field of Dreams” (released in 1989 and set in the 1980s) where one of the characters takes an unexpected trip back in time and meets Dr Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (played by Burt Lancaster). We are alerted to the fact that something odd is happening because the streets are foggy, we hear eerie music and “The Godfather” is playing at a local cinema. Like “The Poseidon Adventure this was also released in 1972. I’ll look out for other examples of this kind of attention to period detail in the movies but watching “Bridge of Spies” recently these were the ones that came to mind.
Postscript (17 July 2016)
Another example came to mind, the sight of “The Bells of St Mary’s” in “The Godfather”, so I’ve written about it here.