Lincoln come alive.
Lincoln the movie that came out in November 2012, (not to be confused with The Vampire slayer movie) was well worth the wait for this celluloid viewer! Directed by Stephen Spielberg, this biopic view on a few months of the Lincoln presidency was brilliant in its authenticity, cinematography and sets and the choice of actors. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Abraham Lincoln right after his reelection campaign of 1864. His wife, superbly played by Sally Field is also a fantastic choice of characterization in this film.
Day-Lewis, who has played many choice roles in his career not only looked like the 16th President, he also spent a year developing the voice of the President and his mannerisms and dress were deftly crafted as well. Field, who aspired to play the role of Mary Todd Lincoln almost did not get the part. As she was 10 years older than Day-Lewis, she was some 20 years older than who she was playing in the film. She tries out for the part only to be told she is not right for it, then the next day Spielberg calls her to ask her to meet him and Day-Lewis for a meeting. Day-Lewis flies over from Scotland to meet with her and when they meet Field nods her head and says "Mr.Lincoln" to which he replies "mother". These are the names the two former inhabitants of the White House called each other when alive. The eerie relationship continues in the film as both bring to life the two in such vivid detail, one has a feeling they are watching them in real time.
The lighting and cinematography in the film carries the mise en scene into the 19th century. The dullness of the lamps, the darkness of the curtains and the chill of the rooms lit by fire are authentic and delightfully presented. When showing the scenes on the battle grounds and in the camp hospitals, one senses the enormity of the losses, both in life and in limb. Etched into the viewers mind is the lack of surety in the situation, the unknown ending of the war and the tremendous loss of sons and the heart breaking toll on the mothers who gave them life.
The cast of characters is phenomenal. Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, Hal Holbrook (who has played Lincoln in the past) and David Straithain all are cast with great care and offer believable performances in their roles. The words each of these actors speak are carefully crafted and researched by award winning screenwriter Tony Kushner of Angels in America fame. Kushner utilized letters, journals and speeches to use words that Lincoln himself used in his speaking and of course included the comedic yarns and stories Lincoln was known to spin.
Viewing this film from the perspective of a Lincoln scholar would be a delight as many of us have found his Presidency to set some rather rigid standards for others to live up to. The plain and honest truth is that Lincoln was a liberal man who loved his country and felt that all men were created equal by their creator. At the time the Republican party was the more liberal part and in the drafting of the 13th amendment, there had to be much lobbying, cajoling and fast work in order to get this freeing amendment to pass in the House of Representatives. If anyone thinks that today politicians are crafty and manipulative then they need to understand how in the past this also was affected. But at the time the President had the respect of the other legislators when he gave his word. Something we should take into consideration in this day and age.
Day-Lewis IS President Lincoln. He presents us with a man we can be proud to have led our country, shows us how at 54 years old this man aged quickly during a time of Civil War and lost one of his sons and never fully recovered from the loss. We also see a doting father of a young son, Tad and the ineffectual attempt to make his son Robert conform to the wishes of his wife. Lincoln and Mary share a definite love and yet difficult relationship. Mary Lincoln reminds several of the Senators when they come to the White House dinner to address her as "Madame President", something tells me she was really not joking in her admonition to these men. Her life and the life of her husband juxtaposed with the raging war and passage of an amendment make this entire movie one richly deserving of an Academy Award.
You must see it to believe it.
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