What is a Period Film

Ever wondered how much it cost to make the film ‘Ben-Hur’? Well, in today’s standards, it might not be much. But back in 1959, the film’s budget was a whopping $15 million. The film boasted of other record breaking figures as well. There were 300 sets used for the film, all of which would be dismantled by producer MGM, out of fear of their misuse. And the epic chariot race was filmed with a record figure of 15,000 extras. Such stats fetched Ben-Hur also a large number of accolades and also went on to gross nearly 6 times its budget. Ben-Hur is also recognized as one of the most ambitious and spectacular period films of all time. Period films have thus proved to be big and monumental successes with both critics and audiences.

But what is a period film? It is a film that portrays a specific period or era of history. The choice of milieu and time can vary. A film could be set in the medieval or Biblical times. Or it could also be filmed about the more modern times. A period film could be also centered on a particular personality of history or around some specific event of the history. Any period film could also be made on material that is adapted by a novel written on any of the subjects mentioned above. The period films are quite a popular genre for filmmaking.

The origins of the period films are a bit unclear. When the Shakespearean thespians moved to films from theatres, they began to film ambitious versions of the Bard’s plays. Sir Laurence Olivier is credited with this sudden surge. Soon, films began to be made on the characters of Bible, the people like Jesus and Moses. However, the splendor associated with period films began with the filmmaking of Cecil B De Milles, David Lean and John Huston. They would make some of the most expensive and best remembered in the history of cinema. Lean’s classic period films like ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ are beautiful stories of romance, war and history.

Of late, the period films have become more generic than ever. Many of the period films are also musicals or biopics centering on certain famous figures of history and legacy. Some period films are also films with action, romance and fantasy. Such films are now being made because of the different sources of material, which are now available.

But period films serve an important purpose. They are not only a great means of entertainment. More importantly, they help viewers to get an insight about the cultures, rituals and lifestyles of the past. They also give us valuable knowledge about the historical events and help use to understand the famous personalities and their ideals. Period films also stand as a testimony to the hard work and dedication of filmmakers, technicians and the actors.

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