Looking Back


©The Talon News | Sarah Crowder

Our obsession with our past is exemplified by the number of period pieces that have come out in recent years. (Sarah Crowder / The Talon News)

Sarah Crowder, Reporter

Bohemian Rhapsody. Won’t You Be My Neighbor. The Favorite. It seems that every movie that has come out in recent years has been a period piece or biopic. These productions are guaranteed to bring in a killing and are notorious for being Oscar-bait. These are some of the best films being made, but they raise the question of why are we seemingly obsessed with looking to the past.

Movies set in the past are in no way a modern phenomenon. Hollywood has been making them for almost as long as film has been around, but in the past few years, an almost overwhelming amount of them have been made, making it feel like you need to hunt for a film set in recent times. And it’s no surprise: nostalgia is a force to be reckoned with. This is especially true when it comes to media set in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, which are filled with familiarity and comfort for audiences who grew up in these times.

With the current state of the world, people can be desperate for an escape, and the usually grand and sweeping period pieces provide an easy out for a few hours. There’s nothing quite like the good ol’ days to give people a sense of relief. This is assisted by the fact that period pieces can often gloss over the problems of the time to focus more on getting the audience absorbed with the aesthetic and atmosphere. On the other hand, period pieces that tackle bigger issues can be a good way to look at these problems that we still have today in a different setting, making them easier to digest. Putting these topics in a different context can make them seem less unconquerable and easier to understand.

Biopics combine our obsession with the past with our obsession with superheroes. We love seeing larger than life figures accomplish more than we can. We like to think that one person can change the world and seeing their story wrapped up neatly with a little bow makes it seem possible. Seeing Winston Churchill lead Britain during World War II, Freddie Mercury fight his demons and come out better in the end, or Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon on the big screen gives us hope that there will be people like this in our time, game changers who shake things up for the better.

Besides being enjoyable on just a surface level, movies set in the past can be a much-needed break from the problems and chaos of today. Looking to yesterday can be a reprieve, teach us lessons that we can apply to our lives, or give us hope for a better tomorrow.