When was the last time you saw a film that stopped your breath and brought every emotion possible right to the forefront of your mind so that you feel like you may have a little bit of a nervous breakdown?
For me, honestly, it’s been a while.
So, the other night, I went to see 12 Years a Slave and boom! cue miniature nervous breakdown and blurred vision (probably from tears).
Based on a true story of a freeman, Solomon Northup, kidnapped and sold into slavery it’s obviously pretty harrowing stuff but it’s a story that needs to be told. Apparently, the beginning of the book where Solomon’s childhood is depicted is skipped, which is a shame but it’s the usual case that films cut something.
The acting is amazing, particularly Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Solomon. Benedict Cumberbatch is also amazing as always and Brad Pitt is good, but the Canadian accent does leave a little to be desired.
The costumes are historically accurate and accentuate the difference between the slaves and the slave owners which emphasises the emotional content of the film. The sets are real historical plantations which reminds the audience that this did happen, even though it never should have.
The injuries portrayed have been done with the kind of make up that makes you go cold all over. It looks so real and raw. Whoever did the make up deserves an Oscar or something.
There’s a lot of reference to religion, the role of obedience and the power of prayer. The contrast between the religious practice of the slaves and the slave owners (they’re all Christian) emphasises the ridiculousness of slavery and the fact that it could ever happen and shows the slaves having hope in what often seems a hopeless situation. Without any intentional spoilers, the discussion about suicide, murder, mercy and damnation will turn everything you ever thought right on its head.
All in all, it’s depressingly brilliant.
And there’s a happy ending, which is always cool.
Go see it, and read the book. I’m going to read the book. It might take me a while if the tears blur the page like.
If you like 12 Years a Slave, other things that tell this important story are the TV series Roots http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Roots-Collection-Original-Anniversary/dp/B000W70GY6/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1393068843&sr=1-1&keywords=roots which is still as good today as it was when it was released in the 1970s and Andrea Levy’s The Long Song http://www.amazon.co.uk/Long-Song-Andrea-Levy/dp/0755359429/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393068974&sr=1-1&keywords=long+song, which crosses the period of the long overdue abolition.