The writer is taken in by the beautiful scenery of the city, the Seine, the streets and the way they look when wet at night. When the bell tolls midnight an old car pulls up and some folks dressed in 1920s clothing and sipping champagne pull the writer into the car and boom, the he is instantly transported into 1920s Paris. When he catches on, he can’t believe his luck and the fact that he is mingling with some of his favourite, and some of the greatest, artists of the time; F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Earnest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter and Salvador Dali to name a few. Every night after that he spends time with this crowd and comes to know them quite well. He even gets Gertrude Stein to review his manuscript!
There were some amazing shots of Paris (Roman Lutetia) in this film and I’m sure I spotted some Roman ruins in one of the great director’s shots. One of the ideas explored by the movie is that people always yearn for something other than what they have, usually something (or some time) in the past. GUILTY! My hand is up. I suspect that most of us who read and write historical fiction, whatever your period, feel that we were born into the wrong century. I’m not talking about medieval medicine (nope, could do without that, thank you very much!) or the sureness of getting murdered in the lawless streets of ancient Rome’s Subura after dark (I guess that one depends on where you live). What I mean is that many of us perhaps wish for times when the air and water were cleaner (imagine the Great Lakes before the Industrial Revolution), or when monuments were not ravaged by modern war and pollution – the Parthenon must have been a miracle to behold before it was used as a Turkish powder keg.
|Alexander the Great|
Midnight in Paris also made me think of what people of the past I would like to meet and interact with for a time. Who would I populate my screenplay with? The old Who would you invite to dinner? question. I think it would be nearly impossible for me to narrow it down to one person in particular. But, I have thought of a few I would like to meet.
I would definitely like to meet a couple of generals; I like military history after all. Alexander the Great would be up there. I would like to talk world travel with him and get his take on all the wonders of the world that he beheld on his travels. I’d also like to know what exactly he did ask the Oracle at Siwah. I don’t feel a need to speak with Julius Caesar – I’ve read his memoirs of the campaign in Gaul and read so much historical fiction about him that I feel I know the man pretty well by now. We’ve got to be selective in this exercise. Maybe I would speak with Gnaeus Julius Agricola, Governor of Britain (A.D. 78-84) and ask him what exactly happened in Caledonia and where is Legio IX Hispana?
|Eleanor of Aquitaine|
|William Marshall in Combat|
from a manuscript of Matthew Paris
|Empress Julia Domna|
|The Death of King Arthur|
by John Mulcaster Carrick