12 Years a Slave: Truths Hurt – Arzu Çevikalp film critics

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12 Years a Slave: Truths Hurt

12 Years a Slave: Truths Hurt

Did you ever paid or forced to pay a price where you have neither any responsibility nor obligation? I’m sure we all did; at least once. But when that price is your freedom, then a line should be drawn there! Emphasizing the fact that freedom is priceless, the film 12 Years a Slave, which has Academy Award nominations in 9 categories, shows the different forms of the war between white men and black men lasting for centuries conspicuously.

Steve McQueen, acclaimed director of successful movies like “Shame” and “Hunger”, amplifies the power of the reality and vitality of the story by rendering his own feelings in. We should discuss this in detail. According to the movie and the proletarian dictatorship, the injustice and slaughter that enslaved black man subjected is a great crime. We can see that ownership instinct and hierarchical system have nothing to do with belief systems; the only reason is the “poisonous ego” of the humankind. We can relate the tyranny to “poisonous ego”; because “poisonous ego” makes all the depressed feelings within the subconscious emerge. Just like we see in the movie, 12 Years a Slave … Now let’s examine how the story of the 12 Years a Slave is told on the silver screen…

12 Years a Slave: SUCH A CRUELTY

Solomon Northup is an African American guy, who lives in New York with his family and devoted himself to music. Solomon is a happy man with his freedom of choice. One day, he meets two men about a music job and goes to Washington to work as a musician. But the civilized world that he believed in turns upside down; those two men drugs and kidnaps him and sell to plantation in the South as a slave. The only thing, we can tell about the rest of the movie is that your tears will flow. Because all a slave’s psychology subjected is suffering, torture and slaughter. Poor African Americans, the innocent victims of the tyrants! The beatings Solomon and the other slaves received are the reflections of cruelty. This heart-breaking situation may remind the audience of the Hitler’s, Stalin’s and Franco’s dictatorships. Even the Jigsaw, with its torture scenes… Though, it can’t be a patch on Jigsaw!

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave: THE WAR BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL

There’s no doubt that the center of this story of slavery war and personal freedom that happened 200 years ago is the protagonist Solomon, who was ossified with his ups and downs, fears, endurance and dedication to life, while he also defies it. Maybe this sorrowful journey of Solomon, who is a unique personality, is a bitter pill to swallow, but he reflects his inner light on everything that has happened and this constitutes the backbone of this story’s naivety. The despair and unrecoverable anger, our protagonist feels, show the faith of the character drifted towards obscurity. We can identify this as the established form of pain and sorrow. Taking main character away from his homeland and beaming him to an unfamiliar place, a center of evil is throwing audience a curve. Here is an image of loneliness and despair! From this point, we can draw an analogy of Solomon like this: While the dark clouds cast their shadows over his life persistently, just like Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Thinker”, he loses himself far away in his loneliness.  No matter how depressing this scene is, having a strong character, Solomon doesn’t give up and learns how to fight with his loneliness, come what may. In addition to this, beyond the struggle for life and the destructive psychological situation, he almost becomes the projection of a troubled life, with an attitude like he can control everything easily. The oppression created by this clash of clans and cruelty increases in daily basis and the unpredictable end that leads to worries us. As we are over-sensitive to this subject, the film made us cry, rarely got our hopes up, reminded us that above all we’re human beings and thrown us into the hands of indescribable sorrow.

12 Years a Slave: REMORSELESSNESS AND AN AFFRONT TO HUMANITY

Frankly speaking, along with this kinds of hurtful laws of the civilization, the effort of those remorseless people trying to cover their shameful activities as if nothing has happened, presents the essence of the story, which runs towards an inevitable ending. This remorselessness emerges to the surface once in some people, a few times in some and frequently in some and becomes the identity of them. Then, there’s nothing you can do about that kind of individuals. Though, there is a saying as “there is no end to the cures within democracies”, but it’s hard to talk about the existence of a democracy within this example. The best example of this is the antagonist Edwin’s (Michael Fassbender) usage of slaves as his own assets. The words coming from the optimist Canadian farmer (Brad Pitt), who always sees the glass half full, are: “Everybody is equal before the laws, whether he is black or white. If you have been in their shoes just for one day, you would never act like this again.” Emphasizing the importance of being empathetic with these words, Canadian, who has his heart in the right place, also underlines the need of the slaves to walk from darkness into the light. In fact, the reason why “they bide, they’re on their feet” saying is attributed to slaves is that they never give up. Just a small light of hope would show everyone the meaning and importance of their determination towards life.

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave: MUSICS AND THE LANGUAGE OF THE COLORS

Now, imagine that all these events of the story are backed with the music of a great composer like Hans Zimmer. Wouldn’t be so motivational? Yes, you didn’t hear wrong; the music of the movie is composed by Hans Zimmer. It’s a clever move for director McQueen to combine Hans Zimmer’s magnificent music with his 2:35:1 cinemascope images. As if all these brought the movie to a fourth dimension. Gluing the audience on their seats with his high quality cinematography, McQueen gives a lesson on what to shoot and how, by using all visual elements in their proper place, especially the objects that enters the frame. He fits the vivid colors, he prefers to use, via the natural spaces. By this way, the gaps within the script are also filled. But, it looks like filling the gaps was not enough to cover all the errors. For example, one of the most problematic errors that will annoy the audience is the length of the mise-en-scènes.  Sometimes these scenes are too long, but sometimes you ignore this problem, because of the wonderful performances of the great actors. As the phrase goes, the unforgettable cues of two great actors, Michael Fassbender  and Chiwetel Ejiofor, raise the bar for the film. And also we shouldn’t forget an important detail; unique message on slavery from the producer of the film, Brad Pitt.

As a conclusion: 12 Years A Slave is a fabulous film which wrenches our hearts, fills our eyes with tears, makes us think, gives a lot of messages and serves a purpose. It doesn’t only examine the slavery problem, but it tries to cure a bleeding wound of humanity. And by never ceasing… I want to conclude my article by stating: “We shouldn’t hide the truth”

Note: We hope that the film, which will be in theatres on January 24th, wins the Academy Awards it was nominated.

RATING OF THE FILM: 8.5 Credits:

12 Years A Slave
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Brad Pitt ,  Michael Fassbender ,  Chiwetel Ejiofor ,  Paul Giamatti , Paul Dano
Duration: 134 min.
Production Year: 2013

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I guess, it would be hard to control our tears, when we imagine the acts of the cruel individuals, who incorporate racism with violence. Then, what if this all acts pass before our eyes just like film reel? There’s one thing to say; prepare yourself to the images you will see on the silver screen!

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Arzu Cevikalp

She is a film reviewer and reporter who works with national newspapers, magazines and film criticism sites. She is a member of FEDEORA (Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean) She writes television formats and drama scripts, she also interests of acting in movies and had a supporting role in The Class of Chaos Goes Abroad. Her family is in the industry since 1963. Their family company Arzu Film one of the most important film production companies in Turkey. It is established by her grandfather Ertem Egilmez who is a very famous director. She's granddaughter of Ertem Egilmez and niece of director Ferdi Egilmez. In the near future she would like to work with a Spanish and American television channel as a format and script writer. Her plan for the far future is to be a director of full length movies.

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