Lincoln the movie

Brief Movie Review of Lincoln

By Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Colour, 150 minutes

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Produced by Steven Spielberg & Kathleen Kennedy

Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln

Based on Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

For this Canadian reviewer, Lincoln was full of surprises. I was surprised and disappointed that the movie was not as comprehensive as I had wished for and expected—it only covers approximately the last four months of President Lincoln’s life, late 1864, after he was re-elected up to his tragic death by assassination in early 1865. I was hoping for a more complete biographical presentation of Lincoln’s life than this.

Another aspect of the movie that surprised me in a more positive way is the lack of glamorizing civil war violence in the movie, which is a trademark of way too many Hollywood movies—for that I commend Spielberg.

The movie consists mainly of Lincoln meeting with various other politicians; in his tireless endeavour to pass the 13th amendment, banning slavery before the civil war ended and the Confederacy states rejoined the union; which would likely prevent any possibility of passing the amendment if the latter occurred first.

What surprised me with Lincoln’s political agenda was his willingness to wheel and deal with his political adversaries by political patronage—which, at best, was ethically problematic and misleading, and, at worst, illegal and even corrupt. Although at times Lincoln struggles in a genuine way ethically over such political tactics in the movie as well as with the tragic loss of life of the lingering civil war—nonetheless the behind the scenes political manoeuvring demythologizes this reviewer’s image of the 16th president of the U.S. as “honest Abe.”

One of the highlights for this reviewer was the stellar acting of Daniel Day-Lewis; who ironically is not an American, but holds citizenship in England and Ireland. Day-Lewis is a very convincing Abraham Lincoln. He is able to, in his down-to-earth, folksy style; regale his audiences with story, parable, and witty humour in such a fashion that gains the love and respect of everyone. Day-Lewis portrays Lincoln the ordinary, accessible, universal human being; as well as Lincoln the lonely, mysterious political genius.

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Movie Review

Movie Review: Pelle the Conqueror

Directed by Bille August, Produced by Per Holst, Cinematography by Jőrgen Persson

1987, 157 minutes, colour, Danish with English subtitles

I don’t know where I’ve been all my life, but can’t believe that I haven’t seen this movie until now—2011! First off, I am somewhat biased, since I like most films directed by Bille August. The setting of this movie is late nineteenth century Denmark—filmed on location on Bornholm island.

   The protagonists, Lasse Karlsson—played by Max von Sydow—and his young son Pelle—played by Pelle Hvenegaard—have just immigrated from their native Sweden to Denmark in search of a better life. Lasse’s wife and Pelle’s mother has recently died. They are full of dreams, hopes and expectations of a bright, new future inDenmark. However, after being rejected by several employers because he is regarded as “too old,” Lasse and Pelle are hired as labourers on the aristocratic Kongstrup farm.

   Once they arrive, they face several unpleasant surprises, which threaten to rob them of a hopeful future. They live in poor conditions; the foreman is both prejudiced against them and a tyrant; Pelle is bullied by his classmates in school, who are equally as prejudiced as the foreman against immigrants; the food is poor; in short, the farm workers are treated like slaves.

   Yet, the love between father Lasse and son Pelle keeps their hopes and dreams for the future alive. This beautiful film is much more than a boy coming-of-age story. The film, in addition to exploring the significance of a father and son relationship; also addresses the following motifs: loneliness and aging, age discrimination, prejudice and discrimination against immigrants, labour relations, bullying, class divisions and the abuse of power, the power of hopes and dreams, and sacrificing one’s life for others.

   Although the closing scene of the movie is quite moving; my favourite segment was when Niels Køller a young farmer who has lost the love of his life now grief-struck, feels responsible for it—endeavours to do something sacrificial by managing to save the lives of sailors whose ship is capsizing, only to have the ice-laden sea claim his life.

   I appreciated this movie for many reasons—the acting by the protagonists in particular was superb, the cinematography was inspiring, the music was appropriate, the multilevel motifs of the storyline seemed to work well. All-in-all, a movie worth seeing.