Comment: Alt History
did it happen here?
Picture a world without the Second World War, without Hitler and
Is our world
a better place? Red flags flying on every home and capitalists dragged
out and shot in the streets to the cheers of the populace? Indeed, this
could have been the future; because however futile Germanys attack
on Russia may have been, it served one useful, but inadvertent purpose.
Think about how easily Europe, excepting Britain, fell to the German
army. Without World War II, Stalin would have been able to spread his
influence unopposed through the rest of Europe. We would most likely
all be living in communism, and with this additional support, it is
even possible that Russia could have ousted the US in the cold war.
Does everything happen for a reason?
Film, Fiction and Drama have all, in recent years, become outlets for
such metaphysical questioning. Examples stemming right from Kevin Brownlows
1966 film It happened here
to modern examples like Back to the future and Signs.
Brownlows piece is perhaps the earliest example of the alternate
history genre, and considers what could have happened to Britain if
we had lost the Second World War. It shows how most people would have
wanted simply to get back to living as they once did and find themselves
adapting to the new way of life readily, as the only alternative. The
British Partisans, have become a paranoid group concerned only with
their own survival and quite willing to mow down innocent civilians
whose only crime was to be concerned with their own survival.
At the time, it tackled such a controversial issue that it was shunned
by exhibitorsand hidden from public view, until, many years later, it
was finally shown to a more receiving audience on TV. The modern climate
has become such that many topics such as this are now being tackled
with much greater frequency than before and with greater success. (witness
Stephen Baxter's rewriting of UK history of the last two thousand years.
See his' Coalescence'.)
Going back to the original question, no movie in my opinion tackles
this better than the M Night Shaylaman movie: Signs. Everything
in this movie happens for a reason. Mel Gibsons character loses
his faith when his wife is killed in a tragic accident. However, he
has a flashback of her ramblings in death that help save them. Similarly,
the young boys Asthma is what saves him from inhaling the aliens
poison gas. Even the little girls odd obsession with leaving glasses
of water around the house ends up being used as a weapon against the
lone invader. The list of interesting similarities in this film goes
on and on.
So does everything indeed happen for a good reason? Quite possibly,
but I could discuss coincidence and the alteration of time for much
longer than this small article will allow. For now, just be sure you
think before you condemn history.
Ill leave you with an interesting thought though- only two letters
separate our word for history and story. Is there reason behind this?
Well, one is simply true fiction.
© James Talbot - December 2003
James is a first year student at Portsmouth University
all rights reserved