The general notion of costume drama on screen is viewed by many as under threat. There has been success through this genre of film but according to Cairns Craig review of “Rooms without a view” which the pun in the title suggests that the lavish period drama is past its by date. ‘This genre is in danger of turning into a parody of itself’ and ‘The England these films validate and advertise is a theme park of the past’ He expresses his view quite openly, that this expression of style is too perfect. Whereby these costume dramas portray ‘a theme park of the past’ and the issues they face of the last remnants of English ‘Haute-bourgeoisie’.
Craig continues his criticism of this genre by regarding these films as out of touch with modern day issues and as such a world that has changed that these films have no further meaning to young people. He also makes reference to the class system. ‘It is cinema focused on a class that could pretend to be insulated from the world outside. ‘ He leaves the reader to question whether we watch this genre of film with the characters as our contemporaries or the fact that the films represent the past that we are attracted to. Lavish costume drama screen adaptations have become ‘common place’ in modern day cinema.
In the nineties the period drama was well established. Whereby there was a remake of ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen starring Gwyneth Paltrow. The concept of period dramas and the elaborate costumes that are portrayed with them add to the realism of the film. There was much criticism poured onto the modern day Romeo and Juliet remake, as they wore westernised modern clothing, was set in New York and detracted away from the original 16th Century Shakespearean setting. The period drama I believe will always have a place in cinema viewers ‘hearts’.
They are symbolic of an era of England that we see as almost Nationalistic, and not prepared to ‘let go of’. We do not look beyond the settings, the costumes and the characters, to recognise that during that time at the turn of the century, politics and England itself were changing. We see the costume drama as a ‘suspension of disbelief’ we watch the film, purely to enjoy the film at the time. The costumes play an important role in keeping the timing of the production within and holding the Victorian values that are stated. Pride and prejudice was a major television serialisation, the costumes were lavish and ‘at the time’.
They do add substance to the whole feeling of the film, with women wearing corseted dresses and full skirts. In many productions the status of the character is shown through the costumes. I personally disagree with Cairns Craig review of ‘A room with a View’ of being too perfect. One of the many reasons why we watch cinema, is pure escapism, to forget about the world in which we live in for two hours and become a spectacular in a world that holds different values in high esteem, in a world that is portrayed as ‘perfect’ with no regular day to day modern hassles that we experience!
If you look to criticise this genre of film, then in reality it is easy to pick faults with what is expressed, and that they are ‘out of date’. We live in a world rocked by realism- terrorism, war. Is it not nice on occasions to escape these issues for the duration of the film? If you watch the film to appreciate the films content only and the costumes that adorn the screen, it only adds to the pleasure and enjoyment. I truly believe that the costumes are provided to add to the story not to detract from it.