Tuesday, March 20, 2018

El Minesterio del Tiempo and the Frankenstein Chronicles -- treats for history fans

Recently I have run across on Netflix two series which I found particularly satisfying because they were clearly created by people who like history as much as I do, and who have taken care to do it right.

One of them is the Frankenstein Chronicles, which might qualify as a good historical movie simply because it stars Sean Bean, but which has so much more.  The story depicts what might have happened in intellectual circles in London after the publication of the novel Frankenstein.  The movie shows as talented scientists being inspired by the book to attempt not just to understand the nature of life and death, but to find the the secret of immortality.

Of course, this doesn't work out very well for them.

What I liked best about the Frankenstein Chronicles was the convincing and detailed depiction of this pre-Victorian era.  Lots of real people show up to add depth to the story:  Mary Shelley, Sir Robert Peel (creating the "bobbies," the London police force), King William IV, William Blake (on his death bed) and several more.  I can't swear to the absolute accuracy of any of these individual portraits, but the nuanced portrayal of the environment as a whole is very pleasing to this retired history professor.  It reminds me of the care put into those prize historical movies of the early 70s, the Three Musketeers and the Four Musketeers.

Also on Facebook is a Spanish series, El Minesterio del Tiempo. The Ministry of Time is a branch of the Spanish government devoted to preventing unauthorized time travelers from changing essential elelments of the past -- specifically the Spanish past.  I have screened only about a quarter of the series, but most of it so far shows the ministry agents most concerned that famous artists and writers are able to produce the works that they contributed to Spanish culture.

There are other entertaining features of the story.  You probably wouldn't think of Spain as the most likely country to have a monopoly on time travel technology.   If so, know that the characters agree with you!  Anyway, the Spanish time travel technique is not obviously technology.  It was invented by a 15th century rabbi, and ever since his time, the Ministry has been secretly using doors that go from one time and place to another.  If there is an explanation for this. or for the creation of the Ministry itself, it is not clear to me.

But perhaps the best part of the series is the way the characters deal with a power that potentially makes them omnipotent.  All the agents have been plucked out of the normal time stream, sometimes after some family tragedy.  The agents can go back to their original environment any time they want, but they risk damaging their (our) timeline and their own mental health if thety do so.

El Ministerio del Tiempo is getting better as it goes along.  The actors are great.  Are they top-ranked stars in Spain?

Later:  The portrayal of Goya discussing his theory of art is stunning.

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