664 of 759 people found the following review helpful
I Didn't Plan to Write a Review ...,
This review is from: Lincoln (DVD)
Not when there are already dozens of reviews, some excellent, some abysmal. Not when the subject involves so many antecedents and complexities. I couldn't imagine doing the film, or myself, justice within the scope of a few hundred words. However, an amazon friend, a citizen of Germany working in China, has sent me a request to explain why I found this film so successful. Here's my answer, which I might as well share:
"You might need to have spent some of your youth celebrating Lincoln's birthday, or noticing Lincoln's picture on the penny, or reading some of the pop boys' books about the War. You might need to have read Walt Whitman's Civil War poetry, especially "When Lilacs Last etc", and more than once. Lincoln is a powerful shamanic totemic figure in the American mind, and seeing him made human by DDL is like being told yes, there is a heaven for pets or yes any child can become president. But the film handles the assassination with the greatest cinematic subtlety. Of course I've know about the assassination in great detail all my reading life. Of course I know the Gettysburg Address by heart (though generations younger than I am probably don't). Well, there came that moment in the film when the capstone had been placed, when the passage of the 13th Amendment had been achieved -- and any blathering fool who still argues that "the War was not about slavery" should have his mouth taped shut as teachers used to do in the USA in 'the good old days' -- that moment when in effect Lincoln had become immortal morally, and at that moment I sat in the theater agonized by foreknowledge, horrified by anticipating the next scene, which could only be the assassination. Oh no! No! Not now! let the Glory wave a short while! I'm not a guy who cries in cinemas, but I couldn't stop myself from bawling as if a close friend or sib were dying in my arms. Lincoln's death became a personal tragedy for me, for the first brief time, at that moment in the film. My dry historical awareness of the tragedy will never be merely intellectual again. Wait! Not yet! Spare me the scene of his death! I WANT HIM TO LIVE!
And the film did spare us. The indirect treatment of the assassination was superb, humane, decent film-making. Proof, I'd argue, that "less" is sometimes "more", that dispassion can be more poignant than blaring cinemascopic 3-D amped-up violence.
Perhaps not everyone in the audience was as affected as I was. There are people who quibble with DDL's portrayal of Lincoln as insufficiently awesome. There are people who ardently despise Lincoln as a tyrant and desecrator of "our" Constitution. My response to the film was personal and private, linked to my own life experience in the Civil Rights movement. But that response was more intense than I expected when I bought my ticket. More intense than at any film I've seen in many years."
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Showing 1-10 of 194 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 3, 2013 10:11:01 AM PST
Pippin O' Rohan says:
Posted on Jan 3, 2013 1:21:48 PM PST
Stephen Midgley says:
Thanks for this most tantalising review, GB. I look forward to the film's arrival in my little country. SM
Posted on Jan 3, 2013 7:50:52 PM PST
Jennifer Cameron-Smith says:
I am intrigued, and possibly tempted. Jen
Posted on Jan 5, 2013 2:24:35 PM PST
Edwin C. Pauzer says:
What many Americans don't realize is that Lincoln was not the main speaker at the dedication of the Gettysburg Cemetery. He was invited to add "a few appropriate remarks." It's fortunate you didn't memorize the main speaker's address; it was two hours long. He was gracious enough to cable Lincoln afterward writing, "I would like to flatter myself that I achieved the central point in two hours as you did in two minutes." (Senator Edward Everett of Massachusetts)
I wanted to see this film before your review. Now that I've read the emotion in your words it it's more like a mission.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2013 6:35:12 AM PST
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2013 11:18:14 AM PST
I'm sorry, mrliteral. Perhaps I shouldn't double-spoil by telling you that this is another counterfactual historical film, in which Lincoln survives the assassination (the victim was a double) and becomes a wild west desperado named Henry James.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2013 2:39:04 PM PST
Edwin C. Pauzer says:
Posted on Jan 27, 2013 8:58:16 AM PST
Robin Friedman says:
Maybe not planned, but a fine review nonetheless. And one that has done well.
Posted on Jan 27, 2013 5:00:23 PM PST
Susan Herring says:
I also bawled like a baby in the theater. The emotion of reliving that moment and the far-reaching effect those historical decisions had on so any people and our entire country were powerful.
Posted on Feb 10, 2013 7:05:58 AM PST
Homer McDuff says:
You had a personal emotional reaction to the film, which probably had a lot to do with the pro-Lincoln view drilled into you in school. It doesn't follow that anyone who believes the war wasn't really about slavery is a blithering fool. At the time of secession, there was a proposed constitutional amendment (the Corwin amendment) that would have protected slavery from congressional interference forever - and it had Lincoln's support. It only didn't pass because the South seceded before ratifying it. There is also Lincoln's famous saying that he would have accepted any end that preserved the Union, whether it freed all slaves, some, or none.
Lincoln's goal was clearly preserving the Union - his economic plan was to heavily tax imports to boost Northern manufacturing at the expense of agriculture, whether southern or not. He'd then spend a lot of the revenue giving fat contracts to favored corporations to carry out public works projects in the North (remember he was a railroad lawyer, and he did the same thing in Illinois when he was a senator).
You have the right to hold a favorable view of Lincoln, but if you want it to be based on fact, there are a lot of things to come to grips with. The people idolizing him have built him up with a lot of dubious acclaims - like this film's made-up assertion that Lincoln was the one pulling the strings to end slavery. It's about as balanced and honest a portrayal as "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."