The intersection of history and fiction has become all the rage in today's cinematic experience. Go to the movies for entertainment and learn a slice of history. After the film ends, don't get up before the credits. Soon there will be an explanation of where everyone is today in "real time." Why read the book when you can see the movie?
The United Kingdom is no exception to this current rule in cinema. Lack of imagination or an embellishment of the past? Perhaps we are looking back with a fresh pair of eyes or perhaps looking forward to create a new narrative. In Quantum Theory, the future affect's the past as much as the past can and does affect the future.
Billed as a love story that is both tepid and sweet, A United Kingdom is as much about "how love conquers all" as it is a comment on the attention currently being paid to race relations in the world. The film is based upon The Colour Bar by Susan Williams, which is itself a version of the story about Sir Seretse Khama recounted by Michael Dutfield in A Marriage of Inconvenience. Both books chronicle the genesis of the Botswana Democratic party and their independence from British rule. The villain in the story is neither man nor woman but rather one country, an internal family dispute, and the legacy of Apartheid. Seretse breaks tradition by marrying a white woman and thus changes the course of history. It is a profoundly poignant illustration of how "love can literally move mountains" and in this case, move the dial on democracy.
While the film drags at times, it is nonetheless propelled forward by the well acted performances of David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, who respectively portray Sir Seretse and Ruth Williams. "Seretse and Ruth defied family, Apartheid and empire - their love triumphed over every obstacle flung in their path and in so doing they transformed their nation and inspired the world." (The Athena Cinema Review).
Whether their love "transformed a nation" is debatable. What is not debatable is that the film is a love story as well as a work of historical fiction. Did one man change the course of history or were the historical conditions ripe for the man to step in and change the system? Seretse forged ahead to build one of the most prosperous and fastest growing economies in South Africa. That much is true if you read about the history of Botswana.
What is the appeal of The United Kingdom? Is it that we have learned a bit of world history or that we have been witness to a great love? History is constantly being told and retold. Imaginations often default to the "facts." What is behind the impetus of searching the past in order to explain what has already happened? If the desire is to tell and retell in order to reinvent, than the world of art has triumphed over the world of mechanization. If the desire is anything else, we have to ask ourselves how we can move beyond the margins of banality and societal norms. Can we learn to think outside of the box and go back to playing "let's pretend?"