History is replete with the eras of slavery. The great domination of the white man in the United states of America over the blacks. The huge plantations with their slave pens. Adding to this plethora of information is the just released Hollywood movie “12 Years a Slave”. Another great creation by director Steve McQueen.
The story is set essentially in the southern states of USA, the land of the great cotton plantations. It however begins in upstate New York, where a free man called Solomon Northup is abducted and sold into slavery. The first scene shows a group of slaves at work under the oppressive summer heat as the overseer keeps them at the end of a whip. It shortly transcends into flashback as one sees a free, black man Solomon Northup. An extremely talented violinist eke out a decent, respectful lifestyle in the city of New York. Portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the character is truly that of an ordinary man forced into extraordinary situations.
The story travels at a very neat pace and never leaves a moment which is not shocking, the director effortlessly creates such a fabric that some parts are so intense it kind of gets under your skin.
The elements of slavery are very brutally and realistically depicted, whether it is the character being told that he must speak less and listen more. He must not reveal to his masters that he can read and write as that would warrant a 100 lashes.
The conditions under which the slaves existed wrenches your heart as if they were herded together like sheep and cattle and always at the beck and call of their ruthless masters. One scene shows how after a hard day’s labor as the slaves retire to rest, the white man comes knocking at their door and ask them to sing and dance to entertain him.
It is a gut wrenching story and every moment makes you shed a tear and feel the helplessness of the slaves, submitted to the whims and fancies of their masters. It unfolds through the experiences of Solomon and the atrocities he has to endure. The women he tries to protect but fails, the men whom he wants to trust but is betrayed each time. His efforts to escape and bring justice unto himself.
However in the end his endeavors pay off and he meets someone who believes his story of abduction and agrees to help him with the help of law.Solomon is rescued and reunited with his family, a tortured man who worked as a slave for 12 years.
Steve McQueen gives us a very vivid account of the system which prevailed and the scenes are precise and realistic wih no melodrama involved.
However this is not a movie for entertainment, it leaves the viewer shell shocked, terribly hurt and touches the very core of existence. Freedom, the word brings in a whole new meaning. However it is an experience and should be watched just to experience fantastic and realistic cinema.
All images sourced from Google.