Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lincoln - The Movie

I finally got around to seeing Lincoln yesterday at the US Cultural Center in Delhi.  The screening had not been publicized - there was no notice on their website or even at the building entrance that such an event was taking place. Given the fact that the auditorium was half empty, it was obvious that most of the invitees had already seen the movie, or that they did not have the patience to deal with the security barricades.

At sharp 7PM, the US cultural attache walked up the stage for an introduction. A middle-aged man in oversize clothes, he had an air of an absent minded professor describing his latest hypothesis. He talked of Lincon's milieu, his struggles with the 13th Amendment; of Speilberg's obsessive attention to detail - down to getting the right sound for a horse carriage door's 'click'.

It was a fine introduction to a carefully crafted movie.  It does a great job of giving depth, perspective and context to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.

The movie begins at a point when the man is already larger than life. Foot-soldiers are in awe of him and have already memorized much of his Gettysburg address; he is already won his second term, and, the end is already in sight for the bloody civil war which has already cost four years and 600,000 lives. The stage is set for a big fight over the 13th Amendment, and despite all the naysayers, Abe is deeply convinced that it has to be rammed through the congress - by hook or crook.

It is not entirely clear though where this conviction comes from. He wants slaves to be free as a moral imperative but is not sure how he will treat them as equals, or even as citizens who may eventually 'earn the right to vote'. He barely manages to strike a balance between his family and his job. These human dilemmas of great leader are brought out very sensitively.

The movie also gives you a glimpse of the terrible mess behind all those famous victories -- both in the congress and in battlefields. At times, your can almost feel beneath your feet, all the congealed blood from amputated limbs and smell those damp curtains and bad breath  in rooms lit by oil lamps.

A movie worth seeing.

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