Monday, December 3, 2012

Lincoln, the new movie

The myth remains and seems less a myth and more a magnificent fact even though I understand perfectly well that this is a movie, not a documentary.  Lincoln directed by Steven  Spielberg, with Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role and the screenplay by Tony Kushner. Sally Fields is the always pained Mary Todd, tiny, decked out in extravagant gowns, while her husband seems to have one suit and never wants to wear his gloves. Beard and make up and many low angle, upward camera shots make Linoln a towering figure although I believe his Marfan's syndrome made him more gangly than Day-Lewis can possibly be.

The movie is about the wheeling and dealing that got the 13th amendment passed--the passion needed to pass such an amendment against great odds in the House of Representatives. It's a kind of passion we have seen in almost no presidents, truly the stuff of myth. Kushner's language is pungent and totally believable among these men with their prejudices and personal agendas. Writer an director join forces brilliantly throughout. At the outset is an astonishing scene as the towering man enters a room in the White House where a small boy lies sleeping in front of a fireplace. The tall man folds himself down on the floor beside the the boy, speaks to him softly, wakes him enough for the boy to climb on his back and be carried to his bed. Has any movie ever opened with such a quiet but dramatic picture of fatherly love?  Such a scene is not a part of the myth -- rather it was not, but now it is.

The movie is bracketed with some of Lincoln's most eloquent statements. At the beginning two black soldiers ask the President for true equality under the law; they quote the Gettysburg address, taking turns speaking the lines until they have to move away and a white soldier finishes the speech. At the end, as flashback, we see and hear Lincoln himself give the second inaugural address. These words are engraved in the memory of most of us even if we think we've forgotten them.

Superb acting throughout goes almost without saying.  Scenes are tight, sometimes almost claustrophobic, battlefield scenes are wrenching. I hope every Congressman in Washington will see this film and pause long enough to realize that nothing fine every happens without some compromises and some deep consideration of the future, rather than just the next election.

2 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

I want to see this movie! I think highly of Spielberg and his directing abilities. You write a splendid review. It sounds glorious -- now to find it out here in the backwaters. thanks for the great review -- barbara

Ladydy5 aka: Diane Yates said...

Yes June, your review of this movie makes it more of a must to go see. Thanks