Part 5 of my BA Hons Costume dissertation, 07/02/2012.
One can argue that heritage film can create an insight into the past, but it can do so with both historically accurate and inaccurate costumes depending on the film’s setting and the degree of inaccuracy. To a contemporary audience, authenticity can come second to the stylistic post-modern technique of using costume as a symbol or in order to show character. This is due to the presence of the “veridiction contract” between the audience and the film designer, and the designers understanding of the audience’s “assumed embodiment” that allows the audience to invent their own ideas of what the characters and their costumes mean. The Portrait of a Lady being a contemporary interpretation rather than a film based solely upon historical facts allows Patterson creative freedom with the costume designs. Patterson has been able to use historical costume as reference and her understanding of nineteenth century society and dress symbolism in order to develop post-modern interpretations which go beyond mere historical reconstruction. However historically accurate costume, to an extent, must still be present in order to create the sense of a historical time, place and insight that is central to all heritage film as a genre; but this or course is influenced by the time that the film is made, in this case the post-modern present.
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