Saturday, November 22, 2003

Master and Commander is wonderful. My anachronism alarm bells went off only once (did people really talk about the "rain forest" in 1805?), which is remarkable for a period film made by current Hollywood. Russell Crowe is excellent, and the battle against the perfidious French made me proud to be British even if I'm not British. This is one of Peter Weir's best movies, and that's saying something.

Edited to add: A query from my brother prompted me to look it up: It seems the term "rain forest" (or more precisely Regenwald) was first used by the German naturalist Alfred Schimper in 1898, over ninety years after the events of the film.

Edited to add again: My friend Don Howard found this letter from Charles Darwin to his sister Catherine in 1832:

Yet in all of this beauty, one thing remains disturbing. Here on Bahia, on the Northeastern coast of Brasil—chiseled into the delirious greenness of rainforest—man holds man captive. Nothing plays enchanting in blood mixing with sweat on the whip-cuts of the negroes. Nothing enchanting in the deep brown skin chained with iron coils.

Grrr. Another demonstration of how conventional wisdom becomes conventional: People keep repeating it over and over because the internet tells them so. Anyway, I am glad the movie isn't anachronistic.

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