Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave

Nightmare on Elm Street? Halloween? No, this is a horror story, a true horror story. This isn't a deliberate attempt to scare you with the special effects of blood, gore and guts all designed to make the squeamish jump in their seat. No, this is real life. This was the real life of a slave in a most embarrassing and humilitating chapter of American history. I remain stunned by our ability to inflict pain and suffering on other human beings. But the film gives a very good clue as to how we manage to rationalise our behaviour.

A plantation owner whips a slave. He whips her until her back is a mass of sliced skin with exposed muscle. I found it horrifying. I found it sickening. I actually looked away for a moment twisting uncomfortably in my seat. Then the owner explains everything by saying, "She is my property and I will do with my property what I will." That's how we do it. These other people are not human beings, they are something else. They are less than human. They are animals. They are chattel and we can do whatever we want with them.

This is a magnificent film deserving its rating on 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it is at times a disturbing film. As a theatre goer, you may look upon it as another film, another two hours of entertainment, but I come back to this being a slice of real life. The film is based on a 1853 memoir by Solomon Northrup, a free-born African American from Saratoga Springs, New York. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 and apparently, he was one of the few in similar circumstances who managed to regain their freedom. It is an inside look at the brutality carried out against slaves as the labour force driving the economy of the Southern states. Why does racism exist? This is it. This is why.

The entire film is excellent: great story, good cinematography, and superb acting. Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role is terrific. In fact, the whole cast does a marvelous job. (There is a surprise bit part for Brad Pitt who was one of the film's producers.) We can all look for this film at the Oscars next year.

Final Word
This is a fabulous film. However, it is less a piece of entertainment and more a horrifying look at history. It is a must see. I wouldn't call it a date film. It is more of a think film. Never mind the regular so-called horror films; this is about as horrifying as it gets. This is real. I would highly recommend it.

References

Rotten Tomatoes: 12 Years a Slave (2013): 96%
It's far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave's unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant — and quite possibly essential — cinema.

Wikipedia: 12 Years a Slave (film)
12 Years a Slave is a 2013 British-American epic historical drama film and an adaptation of the eponymous 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free negro who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for twelve years before his release. The first scholarly edition of Northup's memoir, co-edited in 1968 by Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon, carefully retraced and validated the account and concluded it to be remarkably accurate.

Wikipedia: Twelve Years a Slave (book)
Twelve Years a Slave (1853; sub-title: Narrative of Solomon Northup, citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana), by Solomon Northup as told to David Wilson, is a memoir and slave narrative of an African American who was born free in New York State but kidnapped in Washington, D.C., sold into slavery, and kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana before the American Civil War. He provided details of slave markets in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, as well as described at length cotton and sugar cultivation on major plantations in Louisiana.

Wikipedia: Solomon Northup
Solomon Northup (July 1808 – after 1857) was a free-born African American from Saratoga Springs, New York.

Published on Sep 4, 2013 by MOVIES Coming Soon
12 Years A Slave Featurette – Solomon Northup (2013)

 
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