12 YEARS A SLAVE
The film 12 Years a Slave depicts the life of a man who is stolen from the North, transported to the South and sold into slavery. The movie follows the true story of Solomon Northup which is based on his memoir which he wrote documenting his kidnapping and sale into slavery. The process by which Northup was kidnapped, broken, sold into slavery, and then subsequently oppressed and resold was far too common and the tale of what many slaves went through. Although his situation was extraordinary because he was kidnapped from the North the situation he faced once enslaved is an accurate portrayal of the horrors that were faced by African Americans during the time of slavery in America.
The beautifully shot landscapes should be idyllic and often resemble something of a painting but placed in the film throw up huge conflict as they remind you more of the blood and suffering and make you think that the brutality of man is disturbing the natural beauty that the South has to offer.
Benedict Cumberbatch's character, Ford, portrays a seemingly decent and caring man who treats his slaves with some respect and kindness, giving Northup a violin for example. He comes off as a relatively good man who is trapped within the powerful confines of the institution of slavery, however the fact that he reads the Bible to his slaves to give them hope that once they die they’ll go to a better place is twisted, he does nothing to help or free them which make me think that he is no better than the other slave owners. Personally I think 12 Years A Slave manages to depict slavery well as something that can drain the humanity from everyone it touches; for the slaves themselves it manages to break all hope that they may have of being free, turning them into shells of people for their owners to do with as they please, characters such as Ford who are seemingly good men are still shown to exploit people and do very little or nothing to help them, for example when Northup is hung by the neck with only his toes barely touching the floor but life around the plantation goes on undisturbed, furthermore it turns flawed men, such as Epps (played by Michael Fassbender) into villainous monsters who have too much power over people who deserve to be treated much better than they are.
I think that although the film is based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup and the story is shown through his eyes, it doesn’t linger too much on him personally, it gives us great detail about each of the characters that are met in subtle ways. I think it does this particularly well with all the female characters; Patsey and Epps’ wife specifically.
Patsey seems to be the polar opposite of Northup; she is a broken girl who has never known dignity as she was born into slavery, she is forced to endure the ‘love’ of Epps and the brutal jealousy of his wife in a life that she knows she will never escape. However within this she still portrays a level of innocence that depicts only further tragedy for her character, in an amazing emotional performance.
Overall, the film 12 Years A Slave offers an accurate representation of slavery in Southern America at the time. It is a heartbreakingly emotional film, made up of a well picked cast, who are able to show the agony and despair of the slaves, the bitterness, jealousy and villainous behaviours of the slave owners and all in all are able to portray the memoirs of Solomon Northup well and justly.