Wednesday, December 25, 2013
I'm always fascinated by The Collective Unconscious, which in terms of film this past year, was made evident in the re-examination of race relations - 42, Fruitvale Station, The Butler, 12 Years A Slave and now Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. What does it mean that past and present racial injustice and oppression are being so powerfully brought to life on the big screen at this moment in time? Are we exercising the ghosts of the past in order to usher in a better future of equality? And how do you feel as a Caucasian person watching these movies? Cause it's not as if any of the films even attempt to see the story from a white standpoint. Of course, when it comes to prejudice, slavery, apartheid and police brutality is there another view on the right and wrong of it all?
I saw Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom just 2 or 3 days after Nelson Mandela's passing, so I was shocked to see such a small preview screening turnout. The theater wasn't even half-full. I hope the box office will pick up for this film's Christmas release date and won't get lost competing with The Wolf of Wall Street, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Grudge Match. (Stay tuned for posts on these films).
And what I'm about to say isn't going to help much - but of all the aforementioned movies dealing with race, Mandela is the least powerful of them all. Could it be I've been over-exposed from being swept up in the other films? I remember leaving the theater really proud of Jackie Robinson; cried like a baby when Oscar Grant was pronounced dead; learned so much about our past President's handling of racial issues and was truly afraid for the Freedom Riders; most of all, I was living the humiliation, pain, degradation and fear right along side Solomon Northup. But when it comes to Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, director: Justin Chadwick and writer William Nicholson just didn't quite get this telling of Nelson Mandela's amazing story, to a point where the movie really moved me.
It wasn't the casting of Idris Elba, non-resemblance to Mandela aside, he perfected the South African accent and portrayed the dignity and intelligence of this man who embodied an incredible life force, while tapping into Mandela's not so dignified, womanizing human side. It wasn't the production quality, that felt natural, beautiful cinematography, particularly the scenes that took place out on the plains of South Africa. The relationship between Winnie (Naomie Harris), and Nelson was interesting; I didn't realize they barely had time to be husband and wife, before he was imprisoned. And I certainly didn't realize they were on complete opposite ends in terms of making peace with the current regime upon his release from prison.
I think the problem was in timing and dialogue. There just never seemed to be a defining moment in the film. Mandela's time becoming a man of the people before his imprisonment is too short, not enough happens. And his time in prison is too long (which of course it really was) but again without much happening. We don't really get to witness him becoming, for lack of a better word - Zen.
T &T's LAMB Score: 2.5 out of 5 (now that may seem a harsh score, since there are much worse movies, where I've given a higher score, but in terms of expectations not being met, I had to go with this rating).
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