What a great epic story about the legislative process of history’s 13th Amendment that ratified our constitution, divided, and changed our nation.
Steven Spielberg in his usual way, so elegantly depicted Lincoln’s life 4 weeks before his death, capturing the most intimate moments of our most memorable president during this historical time.
The cinematography immediately set the tone of the 19th century era with shots of architecture that displayed old rustic weathered wood and brick. I recall only one sunny day in the movie. Outside shots were filled with rain, darkness, and smoke symbolizing the constant civil battle that ripped our nation it two. Most of the shots in the movie were tight, capturing Lincoln and his cabinet with close up shots. It enabled us to truly be a part of the emotional roller coaster during that time.
Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing, a living, breathing, inspiring Lincoln. His demeanor, love, tenderness and patience with his “crazy” wife Mary Todd, played brilliantly by Sally Field, and his young son Tad (Gulliver McGrath) gave us a glimpse into the humanness and everyday life of an ordinary man in many respects. We witnessed his zeal and determination to bring peace to our nation, but not just a temporary peace, one that would leave a lasting tattoo on this nation. We saw a caring , and determined Lincoln, one who put equality in the for-front of his every being. But we also saw the humor in the brilliant mind of this self-taught individual.
The movie strictly focused on the “law” of equality, and the detail of getting the bill passed. The divide of the senate was eerily similar to today’s bickering and bantering. The stories told by Lincoln and the language used in the movie kept with the familiar idioms of the time. I could finally justify Spielberg’s wish to hold the movie until after the election.
I thought it interesting that the movie focused on slavery, yet very few blacks were shown in the movie. The American south didn’t get any attention at all. The brutality of American slavery and the conditions on slave plantations is not shown in the movie. Spielberg chooses to focus on the full political debate within the House of Representatives. I actually thought it was refreshing not to rehash our ugly history on screen this time, and to see a different view of the process. Those blacks that were represented in the movie were free slaves, not the “field niggers” of the south. Although many of them already had a taste of “freedom”, they were present in support of their race, a representative to the cause.
I didn’t like the scene when Thaddeus Stevens, played by Tommy Lee Jones, grabs the original copy of the 13th Amendment and brings it home, where he is greeted by his Black housekeeper Lydia Smith, (Epatha Merkerson). He presents it to her with the words “a gift for you,” whereupon the satisfied servant crawls into bed with him, and reads aloud the amendment. Although I think Spielberg in this scene was trying to help us understand Steven’s urgency and passion to pass this bill, being a black woman myself, I immediately felt utter humiliation, shame, and very small in the large theater. My mind was not in the present day, and the site of a white man and a black woman in bed in the 19th century suddenly brought chilling scenes of brutal rape of the Black woman to my mind, as my half white Great Grandfather’s image flashed before me. I truly think that the point could have been made without showing the two in bed.
The Civil War was fought for economic reasons, between two sets of economies. The production of American products just happened to be derived from Black slave labor, putting slavery and all its moral injustice in the middle of the civil war. I know there are many who would think that this movie is truly fictional, and that Lincoln was portrayed as the “Christ” of 13th Amendment, but despite the fact that recorded history does show that Lincoln supported many of the slave laws, I still think Spielberg did a great job taking us back into history. A history that is still very dear to my heart as a black citizen of our nation. A history that has left its mental and physical scars on my direct ancestors. History that has given our nation new opportunities
Did you see the movie? What did you think?