What a powerful movie – we just saw it Saturday night at the Esquire – one of my very most favoritest places to see a movie! Plus, great popcorn.
I hate violent movies – where the violence is part of a made up story, just to get our adrenalin going. Somehow, I am not nearly as bothered by depictions of real violence. And so it was in this movie, in which there is a fair amount of violence, a fair amount of sex, not much beauty, and tons of cruelty of various sorts, some quite polite.
This is a true story of a New England free man, who was black, and received an offer of payment for playing his violin in Washington, D C – so he left, for just a few days, the home town where he was a leading citizen, was drugged and sold into slavery. Which was pretty easy, because Virginia was a major slave state.
This tale covers the 12 years he spent inside the ‘peculiar institution’, as slavery was called. The book he wrote after his return was published in 1853 – so folk who said during and after the war that they did not know what was going on were as guilty as the world was after Hitler was defeated, and as guilty as Congress was when we invaded Iraq – millions of us around the world marched because we knew Hans Blix was telling the truth, and Washington was lying.
Painfully disgusting is the depiction of slavery, the conditions of the slaves, the eyes wide open blinders of the white women, and the impotence in many ways of the men. There is only a very little beauty and much betrayal.
The subtle assistance of other slaves when he was standing on tiptoes in the mud to keep the noose around his neck from tightening was beautiful. The architect’s help was beautiful. Mr. Parker with his stern sense of right and his courage was beautiful. And the reunion was beautiful.
The rest is a tale of all the many betrayals slavery bred in just this one life. I’m picturing a world in which no person has coercive power over another anywhere at any time. That power destroyed slave owners as well as slaves. And this movie shows all the ways that happens.