12 Years A Slave

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Hello my field daisies…

I start today without an exclamation point because in light of the events that I am about to talk about, it just doesn’t seem appropriate. Today is going to be a bit more serious than my usual posts, but I still hope you enjoy it all the same.

I know the Grammy’s were today and the internet is going to buzzing about that. I see posts all over my social media about Jay Z and Beyonce’s performance, which I definitely need to check out. But I didn’t have cable, so I decided to go watch 12 years a slave instead, and I don’t regret it.

Cinematically the movie was breathtaking, with stunning scenery shots and brilliant use of bird’s eye view shots throughout the film. The story itself was also very moving and brilliantly written and directed. 12 years a slave shows the cruel reality of our nation’s founding, a vastly different story than the 1915 Birth of a Nation. At the time, Birth of the Nation was said to be the story of our past, but in reality it just depicted black stereotypes and the KKK as the knights in shining armor.

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We have come a long way since then. I mean the power couple of the hour is Jay Z and Beyonce, two very talented African American singers. I’m proud that we now live in a place where racism is taboo, but that doesn’t mean racism still doesn’t exist in areas such as racial profiling. That’s why I think it is so important to review and talk about this movie.

Spolier Alert: For the rest of the time, I will be talking about 12 years a slave, so if you haven’t seen the movie you should go watch it, and then if you want you can come back and finish reading my post.

The main character of the movie is a man named Solomon Northup, who actually existed. The movie is based off of his book.

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The movie follows a flashback layout, starting at the end of the story, where Solomon is at his 2nd plantation home, and showing the events leading up to that moment: him being born a free man in New York, tricked then sold into slavery for 12 years before he finally got released.

There is a flashback scene where Solomon is with his family up North walking through town and shopping for a bag for his wife. In the store, the storekeeper treats Solomon as an equal and Solomon inquires about the price as his wife jokingly says we’ll take it. A slave walks into the store and is reprimanded by his owner, who treats him like a misbehaving dog telling him to get back outside.

This scene parallels the slave auction, which now seems kind of ironic. In another life, Solomon was the one asking about the prices. Now he is a commodity being sold. He is told by a fellow slave that if he wants to survive, he is to tell no one that he can read or write. Indeed his education does nothing but hurt him.

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In this scene, Solomon is suggesting an easier way to carry logs. Master Ford (middle) tells the slave handler (right), “Well I’ll admit to being impressed, even if you won’t.”

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Master Ford gives Solomon a violin, saying he hopes it brings him much joy over the years. I find this statement extremely sad. A violin can’t make up for the fact that he is still a slave. How much joy could it really bring?

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This shot is taken towards the end of the movie, and you can clearly see how Solomon’s talent is being used against his will for other people’s enjoyment.

Throughout the movie, violin music is used to create certain emotions and this is definitely evident when the jealous slave handler tries to kill Solomon for his smartness. The background violin sounds are low and foreboding, creating tension for the audience.

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Solomon is left hanging in a tree just close enough to the ground so that he doesn’t suffocate. It’s interesting to notice how daily life just keeps on happening in the background. There are many moments like this in the movie showing just how common these moments of cruelty are. No one goes to help Solomon except for a young black girl who quickly sneaks him a sip of water before retreating out of fear.

This notion eludes to the human condition as a whole. A lot of us tend to carry on as long as we aren’t the ones in the hot water. It’s hard to help someone out of the water without getting burned yourself, just like the slave on the boat who got stabbed and killed for trying to protect a woman.

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This is definitely true in the case of Master Ford. He ends up cutting Solomon down and taking him inside his home to hide from the slave handler, but when Solomon tries to tell him he is a free man he doesn’t even listen. Even though he is nice he won’t make a stand, quieting him and saying, “You’ve made a reputation of yourself,” and that the best he could do was send him to another plantation.

This 2nd plantation is much worse than the 1st.

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Master Epps is cruel, whipping people for not meeting their quotas on picking cotton. There is this one slave girl that he admires for her picking abilities and her beauty. He calls her the Queen of the Fields.

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However once again it is shown that if you are talented you will make yourself a target. Master Epps uses Patsey sexually and his wife can see that he favors her. There is even a moment where his wife throws a bottle at Patsey’s face saying that Master Epps must give her away or she will leave him. He just says “I will rid myself of you well before I rid myself of her.”

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This just makes it worse for Patsey. She even asks Solomon to kill her, so she doesn’t have to live this terrible life anymore.

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But Solomon won’t do it, which makes what happens later all the more painful, but I won’t spoil that for you.

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Now we are back in the beginning of the movie, where Solomon is trying to write a letter that he will give to someone to send for help.

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That person ends up ratting him out to Master Epps, and Solomon has no choice but to burn the letter.
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In the end, Master Bass, a man from Canada who is hired to help build a gazebo, saves Solomon. He hears Solomon’s story and promises to get him his free papers.

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Brad Pitt is the most righteous person in the whole movie. He calls Master Epps out on his cruelty and says that there is no justice in this labor. He talks about how laws can change and what if one day there were laws inhibiting your freedom?

Though Brad Pit delivers the most important lines in the movie, I still don’t like how his head is the focal point of this Italian movie poster. He was only in the movie at the end and yet his name is the biggest. This poster tells the story all wrong because it shows Solomon running as if he ran his way to freedom. To be honest, when Solomon became free, he was a broken man.

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His freedom was based on luck and the kindness of a stranger. He could have easily died from exhaustion like the slave who collapsed in the cotton field. In the beginning, he tried to use his brain, but by the end of the movie, he stopped trying to explain himself and just took the advice he was given in the beginning: No good will come of you admitting you can read and write.

The shot above is my favorite moment of the movie. It is just a close up of Solomon’s face with a blurred background and no music. At one point, he is staring at the camera and you can just feel the pain and struggle of his journey. When he makes it home, his children are all grown up and his daughter has a husband. Solomon says he has much acquainting to do with him.

What can we take away from this movie? Well for one thing we cannot forget where we came from because we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. We have to use what we know about the atrocity of the past to move forward, to be better people to create a world that is better to live in.

Of course this is a lot of lofty talk, but it still has some merit. All I know is that this movie made me want to be a better person, a person who takes a stance when injustice happens. I just hope I can live up to my expectations.

That’s it for today guys.

Love ya’ll and as always thanks for reading…

Hope you have a daisyish day…

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7 responses to “12 Years A Slave

  1. Loved all the pictures telling the story in this entry, felt like I was back in the cinema all over again! Such a spectacular film, the highlight for me had to be Michael Fassbender’s performance as Edwin Epps. He played such an evil man so well that it completely took away the star power that Fassbender has, leaving you to focus on just the cruel nature of the character. Definitely a better choice than the Grammys!

    • Wow thanks! This is my first movie review, so I was not sure how well it would be received. Michael Fassbender’s performance was definitely off the charts. I love actors who can play a variety of roles, and to see him in Inglorious Bastards and Prometheus made me enjoy his role in 12 years a slave so much more. Thanks for reading and commenting an hope you have a great day 🙂

  2. To me, felt like more of a movie that I respected more than I actually liked. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it nonetheless, it was just a hard one to sit through. Good review.

    • I totally see where you are coming from. It’s definitely not a movie you can take home and casually watch on a Friday night. Thanks so much for commenting and reading it means a lot! 🙂

  3. Pingback: The Tuesday Zone: A Delayed “Ten Favorites of 2013″ List | Rooster Illusion·

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