All genres are equal, but in the eyes of Hollywood, some genres are more equal than others. This becomes particularly apparent during awards season. (This year’s Academy Award nominations have just been announced here.) Hollywood loves its biopics and its big-budget musicals, but if you really want to make sure your film gets those nominations, your safest bet is the WaRomancEpic.
What is a WaRomancEpic? It is any big-budget romance set against the background of some kind of war. D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) could be cited as the first example and model for all subsequent WaRomancEpics, except – to Griffith’s credit – he was more genuinely interested in the Civil War and issues related to it than in his young lovers. The mark of a true WaRomancEpic is that it foregrounds the romance elements. The war serves mainly as background to the lovers’ tribulations and – occasionally – as a plot device to separate them. 2007’s prime example is, of course, Atonement (above) featuring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as the young lovers and WWII as the War. Here are some more examples:
Gone With the Wind (1939). War – Civil. Lovers – Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.
Doctor Zhivago (1965). War – Russian Revolution. Lovers – Julie Christie and Omar Sharif.
The English Patient (1996). War – WWII. Lovers – Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Cold Mountain (2003). War – Civil. Lovers – Nicole Kidman and Jude Law.
Get the idea?