Identification Desire and Its Cinematic Arena
27 What Could Be, What Could Have Been
Quite surprisingly, there are only very few movies set in an alternate history framework. Fatherland may come to mind, but significantly it was not a large budget venture. Yet it is easy to argue that, from the point of view of scholarly history, it is a tool that shouldn’t be neglected. Habitually, though, the objection is: what’s the use. Most historians try to steer clear of it although it is revealing that frequently some sentences in most historiographical studies, and manifestly quite non-intentionally, give the game away: one way or another, they contain at least some morsels of “counterfactuality.” As a matter of fact, there can be little doubt that it is useful for historians to take into consideration counterfactuals, if only to better delineate the “correct course” of history.
There are phases in history when things are on a razor’s edge: they could have turned either way. 1914/2014 gave us ample opportunity to realize that: it was neither a given that Britain would enter the war, nor that a full-blown war would be kicked off in the first place–just because of an ultimatum that was no doubt lordly but not entirely unjustified. And that’s the point where one gets into the muddy waters of more far-reaching alternatives. Because why is it–or should it have been and still will be for the foreseeable future–that national sovereignty is something so sanctified that it still appears to be blasphemy when it is shyly queried? Let’s...