I don’t often write about movies here, but this one has caught my spirit in such a way that I must write about it.
My son was called after Abraham Lincoln; my husband and I went to see “Mister Lincoln” a one man stage show, played by the great British actor, Roy Dotrice, when I was very pregnant. (It was a brilliant piece of theatre). We hadn’t decided on a name then. But I turned to my boy’s father during the performance, and said “Abraham’s a good name”, and he agreed.
If you haven’t seen Lincoln, it’s well worth it. It is a challenging film to watch, as it’s very dense with dialogue, and much of the politics and history is unfamiliar to one who is not American and has not studied American history. It focuses on Lincoln’s push to get the 13th amendment to the constitution passed. stating:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
He wanted it passed before peace was declared with the Confederate Southern States, because he knew that once they returned to the house of government, they would throw it out. So he got his supporters wheeling and dealing, basically buying support (not with cash, but with promises of promotion, work, etc.) and after much opposition and argument, and a great deal of conflict, including domestic, he won the day. Then the Confederate States surrendered, peace was declared (without retribution) and two months later, after Lincoln was inaugurated to his second term as president, he was assassinated at the theatre.
Daniel Day Lewis gives an immensely endearing, modest and moving performance, enough to make you fall in love with Lincolnm’s greatness and vulnerability, and to weep for his death.
So if you don’t mind being a bit bamboozled by all the shenanigans (as I was) it’s well worth sitting it out. The acting is marvellous, the screen is crowded by lively, motley and colourful characters, and the interiors are dark, claustrophobic and rich in shadowed detail. One of the most moving and disturbing scenes is Lincoln’s ride through the battlefield, after the amendment has been passed; he is on his way to see General Ulysses Grant, and to discuss the terms of the vanquished side’s surrender (he insists on mercy, not punishment) and he chooses to ride through fileds of slain and mutilated bodies, many of them only boys.
I left the theatre feeling immensely sad, but inspired that this great man, who only had one year of schooling when he was a child, and whose parents were illiterate, was able to hold the hearts of the nation and push through one of the greatest reforms in the world’s history.
Makes me want to read a good biography of him. Do you know of any?