Friday, 8 February 2013

A Game of Corruption and Morality in Politics.

16 November, 2012

Directed by: 
Steven Spielberg

Produced by:
Steven Spielberg
Kathleen Kennedy

Written by: 
Tony Kushner
(Based on ‘Team of Rivals: The political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”
by Doris Kearns Goodwin)

Daniel Day-Lewis
Sally Field
David Strathairn
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
James Spader
Hal Holbrook
Tommy Lee Jones

Summary: Lincoln’ tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s role in pushing through the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution (which abolished slavery), exploring the struggles he faced with his cabinet, gaining votes from Democrat representatives and his own family. Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War in 1865, Lincoln faces a crisis of conscience in whether to end war (and chance the Thirteenth Amendment not passing) or to use the war as a means to support ending slavery. This film looks at how arguably the most important piece of legislation in American history was passed through corruption (with representatives being offered federal positions in exchange for voting for the bill).
My Favourite Scene:  My favourite scene was the vote on the amendment in the House of Representatives. When it is announced that there is a rumour that Confederate representatives are ready to discuss peace, there is a moment of panic as both parties decide that the vote should be postponed if there is a chance of peace.  A message is rushed to Lincoln, who denies that there are envoys that are in, or will be in, the city. This is technically a truthful statement, as he has ordered them to stay away! As a consequence, the voting goes ahead and the bill is passed by a margin of two votes.

I thought that this scene conveys what politics really is. Although at times it can appear to simply be old, white men in suits making boring decisions about issues that do not really matter, it is actually voting for change which has the power to completely alter a country. This scene also demonstrates that it is necessary at times in politics, to play the game and not tell the entire truth in order to make something happen, which one knows to be right – eventually the important thing to consider if whether the ends justify the means.

My Favourite Quotes: 
Abraham Lincoln: I could write shorter sermons but when I get started I’m too lazy to stop.

Thaddeus Stevens: The most liberating constitutional amendment in history, passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America.

Abraham Lincoln: Euclid's first common notion is this: Things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other. That's a rule of mathematical reasoning and its true because it works - has done and always will do. In his book Euclid says this is self evident. You see there it is even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law it is the self evident truth that things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other.

My Thoughts: The film was a fantastic portrayal of Abraham Lincoln’s struggle to secure the abolition of slavery. Not just the Republican’s issues (such as the civil war) but also the political issue of securing votes through undemocratic means. The film also explores Lincoln’s own issues with his wife’s instability and objection to their son serving in the army – due to the death of their first son.

However ‘Lincoln’ was not entertaining in a conventional way, in that it is quite demanding of the audience (or at least a UK audience). Unless one has a good understanding of American history and politics, it is a little challenging to fully understand the process of the bill. At some points, I was wondering about the importance of particular individuals and (until I did some research subsequently) I could not work out why Republicans would support abolishing slavery and Democrats, oppose it! I did not feel that there was really an adequate explanation of how slavery would divide individuals on the political spectrum.

Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance was undoubtedly the best element in the film! I felt he really captured a statesman torn between love, friendship and his political conscience. There were some very moving scenes and I’d bet on Day-Lewis nabbing that Oscar for best actor! However I did struggle in making a connection with any of the other characters, but perhaps what I saw as the underdevelopment of some characters is not so important in a film primarily concerned with one character.
Overall I think that, despite perhaps some underdevelopment in the issue of slavery and  characters, ‘Lincoln’ is a very good film. There are moving scenes relating to politics, family and war. However I also felt it lacked any sort of flair… but it could be argued that that is to be expected in a primarily historical film. There was some talk about the accuracy of the events, with some saying that it had exaggerated what had actually occurred. Historian Joshua M. Zeitz, writing in The Atlantic, said: "Lincoln is not a perfect film, but it is an important film.” I share this conclusion. ‘Lincoln’ may not be completely accurate or entertaining throughout, but it gives an interesting presentation of one of the most important events in American history, with an extremely memorable performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.


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