Is The Pale Blue Eye based on a true story?

The Pale Blue Eye stars Christian Bale and Gillian Anderson in a 19th century mystery thriller.

Directed by Scott Cooper, the film follows detective Augustus Landor (Bale) who investigates a series of murders at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York with the assistance of Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling).

The ensemble cast includes Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones, Harry Lawtey, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall and Robert Duvall.

Is The Pale Blue Eye historically accurate?

Christian Bale and Harry Melling in ‘The Pale Blue Eye’. CREDIT: Netflix

Not quite. The film is a fictional story adapted from the 2003 novel of the same name by Louis Bayard. While the idea of Edgar Allan Poe tracking down a serial killer is a fabrication, some aspects of the story are based on historical truth in the poet’s life.

After serving in the US Army for several years, Poe, aged 21, entered the US Military Academy at West Point in March 1830. Despite his past military experience, Poe is said to have struggled with the harsh discipline at the academy. He was later court-martialed and found guilty of gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders in 1931. It’s said Poe purposefully planned to get court-martialed so he could leave.

From there, Poe focused on his writing career. He went onto write classic poems like The Raven and short stories The Pit And The Pendulum, The Fall Of The House Of Usher and The Tell-Tale Heart, which inspired the title of The Pale Blue Eye.

Speaking about the film (via Tudum), Cooper said: “Of course, this is a work of fiction. What I’m saying is: these events that occur in our film shaped his worldview and helped him become the writer that he became – with the recurring themes that deal with the questions of death, and the effects of decomposition and reanimation of the dead and mourning – all those things that are considered part of his dark romanticism.”

Bale’s character, Augustus Landor, is a fictional creation from Bayard’s novel. “I needed a detective, somebody who could be Poe’s mentor and father figure as they solved this crime together,” Bayard said. “The name Gus comes from C. Auguste Dupin, who was the detective in Poe’s stories The Murders In The Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter.”

Landor’s surname comes from Poe’s short story, Landor’s Cottage, which Bayard also drew from when creating the detective’s home.

The Pale Blue Eye is available to stream on Netflix.


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