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What Makes Historical Films So Special?

1564 words - 7 pages

Whether or not we choose to believe it, some of the greatest emperors in history actually turned out to be rather heartless and unpleasant, changing our perception significantly from admiration to pure hatred. To analyze such emotions would be to compare the way history has told the stories of these powerful leaders (in their respected empires) to modern influences, such as historical films, that portray the leaders as if they had hearts of gold. Although historical textbooks have branded both Asoka and Qin Shi Huangdi as rulers who were brutal and sometimes coldblooded, the films The Emperor and the Assassin and Asoka describe the reigns of these two emperors with the utmost wholesomeness in that both movies enable the minds of the viewers to look upon the both of them with admiration.
The history behind the rule of Asoka who ruled as emperor of the Mauryan Empire (from 269 B.C to his death in 231 B.C) can be described as highly violent and gruesome due to Asoka’s ferocious warrior principles. Asoka, being the grandson of the founder of the empire, Chandragupta Maurya, succeeded his “inept elder brother, and then had all of his other brothers and possible rivals killed” (Upshur 188). Known to be a fierce warrior who showed no mercy in the face of battle, the emperor Asoka successfully conquered the kingdom of Kalinga in Southeast India. However, after walking the plains of the bloody battle and having feelings of remorse, the emperor underwent a serious change of heart in that he “changed the direction of his government and personal life” (Upshur 188). What this shows me is that the early history of Asoka, before his purgation, can be described as highly troubled in that the emperor went around mercilessly slaughtering kingdoms that would not pay Asoka in obedience. While confronted with this view of the emperor, my opinion of Asoka changed dramatically whilst watching the film Asoka in that my feelings of hatred and disappointment were replaced with sentiments of respect and misunderstanding.
The movie Asoka held the great ruler of the Mauryan Empire to be a persistent leader who falls prey to a beautiful young woman, by the name of Kaurwaki, and learns compassion from both Kaurwaki and her little brother, Prince Arya of Kalinga (the state that Asoka would later lay siege to and become a changed man). While the history books detail the aftermath of the Battle of Kalinga (approximately 260 B.C) as the turning point in Asoka’s life, the film chronicles the changes in the emperor’s life over the course of the entire film By way of visualization in the film, Asoka is forced away from the kingdom (while his father, Bindusara, was still emperor) due to his mother’s vow of silence that she takes after hearing that her son was almost assassinated by one of Asoka’s brother’s (Susima). In order to please his mother, Asoka experiences the life of an average citizen by cutting off his hair (symbolic so that nobody will recognize the prince) and develops...

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