Monday, 24 October 2011


I know as both a Unionist and a History teacher I am supposed to hate everything about the film Braveheart. Unfortunately I just can't do it. There is something in me that just warms to the idea of an underdog realising their dreams.

What I can't understand though is quite why Mel Gibson decided to tell the story in this way. I can forgive the Hollywoodising in the introduction of Sophie Marceau even though she didn't marry the future Edward II until 1308. I can forgive the Hollywoodising of the supposed relationship between Wallace and Bruce, even though there are no records of them ever meeting. I can even forgive the rather dramatic death of Wallace, from the point where he was betrayed by a senior noble to the Scotsman's new favourite catchphrase "FREEEEEEDDDDDOOOMMM".

What I can't understand, and therefore as yet I am unable to forgive, is how you can have a Battle of Stirling Bridge, with no castle and, perhaps slightly more noticeable, no bridge.

Every time I get the pleasure of teaching the Scottish Wars of Independence at school, I am left baffled by Gibson's decision to leave out the bridge. The true story is the one that surely should be the Hollywoodised one? Arrogant Englishman try to cross a small bridge to defeat a peasant filled Scottish army and instead get annihilated - surely easy prey for a Hollywood director?

And once again I have got bogged down in the standard fare when someone in the know tries to explain William Wallace.

For me as a 12 year old boy living in England this film was brilliant. Not just for the atmosphere in the film, or the ability to slag off my new mates but for the fact that provided a gateway to discovering the true history of Scotland. I can't watch a movie any more without googling something at the end, be it the accuracy of the story or the name (and filmography) of one of the actors (usually the attractive actress...), and in Braveheart I discovered the joys of the real Wallace.

The film itself is triumphant, suspenseful and dramatic, even if it doesn't hold true it is still a great movie. I'm just not sure it is in Oscar winning territory though...

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