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From the makers of Ray, AMAZING GRACE tells the inspiring story of William Wilberforce and his passion and perseverance to pass a law ending the slave trade in the late 18th century. Several friends, including Wilberforce's minister, a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, urge him to see the cause through.
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This film can be seen from several viewpoints -
1) English political history explaining how slavery was 'abolished' in the British Empire.
2) Biographical presentation of the life of William Wilberforce and his influence on abolition.
3) The impact of the "evangelical'' movement in Britain during the nineteenth century.
4) Description of the reasons and economic justification of slavery.
Every scene adds to the narrative. From the opening shot of Wilberforce defending an exhausted horse suffering a beating, to the touching romantic story of how he met and married a beautiful young woman, to his deep friendship with Pitt, all add wonderfully to our understanding of Wilberforce and his world. Marvelous!
One theme that runs throughout is the religious motives of the abolitionists, with the exception of Pitt and later Fox. Wilberforce is recruited by the evangelical movement since he is a prominent member of parliament and shares their faith. When Pitt is dying, he reveals 'I am afraid', then adds 'I wish I had your faith'. The evangelicals support and embrace the former slave Equanio. He talks and writes in ways that touches the heart. Great!
Wilberforce and his deep pain of heart and then physical intestinal agony clearly presented. Doctors prescribe laudanum (opiate) that affects his metal state. He finally abandons that treatment. The French Revolution and then the napoleonic war, convulsed England with war fever. Wilberforce and his focus on slavery was viewed as anti-English. He was reviled. His health, his emotional state, his mental outlook, all suffered. Who wouldn't?
Nevertheless, he started again. What a inspirational example to - never give up, never give in!
One poignant scene is Wilberforce arguing with Clarkson over the ongoing French Revolution. Clarkson believes it will bring 'the perfect society'. London will (should) be next. Wilberforce responds 'a imperfect order is better than no order at all'. Sternly forbids Clarkson from ever mentioning revolution in England again. Good illustration of the difference between France and England.
My wife and I watch this history with my grandson each year. Find more details and insights each time. The clear value of genuine faith, and the astonishing impact, highlights the contrast with today's world, where faith is out of sight.
The set designs and locations are excellent and reflect the period very well. Ioan Gruffudd, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Albert Finney all give sterling performances as William Wilberforce, his wife, William Pitt, the Younger and John Newton (the former captain of a slave ship who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace).
Mr. Wilberforce worked for more than 20 years (along with many others) to get the Slave Trade outlawed in Britain. He had to work almost another 20 years after this movie to get Slavery completely abolished throughout the British Empire. Despite being ill with a severe auto immune disease, Wilberforce was the voice of the abolitionist movement in the House of Commons. He was the political face of a movement that would end slavery in Britain without a civil war.
Ioan Gruffudd and Benedict Cumberbatch do an excellent job of portraying the life-long friendship that Wilberforce and Pitt shared. After I watched Amazing Grace, I read a great deal about Wilberforce and was pleased to see how well the movie stuck to the historical accounts of this man and his life.
I highly recommend this movie to anyone who wants to watch something more than a car chase. I highly recommend this movie for older children. I think that seeing this could open a discussion with children about justice and morality and sheer perseverance in the face of adversity. If you love history, If you love costume drama, If you love a good love story, this is a movie you should see.
What really amazed me is how they managed to create the completely believable appearance of aging in both actors. I believe the movie spans 2 decades and portraits ill health at that. Amazing makeup job (and lighting?)