Saturday, 8 March 2014
twelve years a slave
We'd left the pub mid-evening and decided to see Twelve Years a Slave, the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from Saratoga, New York. He is tricked into a visit to Washington, where he is kidnapped and trafficked to Louisiana, and sold as a slave.
Artist/director Steve McQueen shows the Northup memoirs as a harrowing tale. It's from the slave's perspective showing the violent treatment by 'owners' towards what they considered their property in the form of the slaves.
It's unremitting, Northup is passed around from owner to owner, with casual violence in each locale. The wives of the owners are as desensitised, with the slaves mainly treated as little more than livestock.
The narrative creates a range of brutal episodes. It's a tough one to watch because of it, with slow cuts and long scenes to drive home the point.
In parts the camera is closely involved, and at other times there's an almost documentary stillness to painterly yet often harsh scenes.
As the final accelerated ending played out, it left me with mixed feelings about it as a movie. Worthy, yes. A story that needs to be told. Undoubtedly. Closure. No, or at least only partly. There were many things left unresolved and a rushed conclusion.
It's a part of a huge and somewhat suppressed story about the institutional supply chains that supported America's foundations, too vast to encapsulate in this single film.