Film Micrœview #25: 12 Years a Slave (2013)

12.01.2013 § Leave a comment

Another expertly crafted film from Steve McQueen. He did not indulge the suffering of the slaves in and of itself. Solomon was startlingly close on a personal level with his white overseers; what this film probed was the terrible awkwardness of social life when one group of people treats the other group at their whim as either fellow people or property, and mixes with them on a daily basis. We met a couple whites who work for pay alongside the slaves. We see examples back home in the North of extreme racism (of the “[this] is not for blacks” variety). Again McQueen does indulge his penchant for interjecting shots of the beauty surrounding the misery: as in Shame when romantic shots of Manhattan would aid editing transitions, here, quite frequently, shots of sunsets through the bayou would be intercut. I teared up at several moments, once even just a few minutes in, when Solomon’s attempt to devise a writing tool fail — that’s all I needed to feel his agonizing situation already. With a chuckle I can sense Brad Pitt (producer) requesting that he be made an absolute good guy. And as for Fassbender, while I admit that during some sustained moments of psychotic Bible-thumping tyranny I was thrown out of the film, just unable to quite imagine the mood he must have created on set; I suppose that’s my own problem, since he certainly couldn’t have established a more horrific presence in the film. His weakness was palpable in a way I see rarely. And the moment Eijofor surrenders himself to the grieving singing of the other slaves, that sustained close-up allowing every facial tick of his decision to start singing, was deeply compelling.

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