Not a review of 12 Years a Slave
Has anybody else been delaying and avoiding watching 12 Years a Slave.
It’s not like I don’t want to see it – there have been clearly a lot of great things being said about it. It’s won many, many rewards and been highly reviewed everywhere I respect – I consider myself quite the film buff and I can’t ignore what is arguably the most critically acclaimed film of 2013.
I’m always interested in seeing films with great acting talent and directing on display – even more so when some of that talent is British. I’ve read and heard so much great stuff about Steve McQueen’s directing and the performances of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassebender and Lupita Nyong’o that it’s a film that simply has to be on my watchlist. But, time & time again it gets pushed out the way and I end up watching something else.
So what’s the problem?
It’s simple really – I’m a little afraid of “12 Years a Slave”.
I’m truly afraid of a film that has words like “heartbreaking”, “visceral”, “raw”, “overwhelming”, “brutal”, “unflinching” and “harrowing” thrown around in almost every review I’ve watched, read or heard. There’s a lot of talk about the film that makes me terrified to watch it.
This isn’t the sort of terrified you would associate with a horror film where I’ll be frightened by jumpy shocks or gory goings-on. This feeling of terror is driven by the historical reality of the story and the formidable psychological impact that is so often described in reviews, blogs and friends recommendations.
One contributing factor is that more & more I am becoming less & less inclined to watch stuff that requires much investment from me. I’m getting old, and the combination of my work life & family sometimes drains my brain I can’t find the pleasure in something that requires investing in – and I most definitely think that ’12 Years a Slave” is a film that needs some emotional & psychological investment.
It’s not like I’m desperately in need of having my mind changed on slavery, I’m already on the right side of that issue. I’m pretty historically aware of how horrific slavery was, and however brutally honest this film is in its depiction of the violent, sadistic cruelty of slave owners I’m in no way in need of a reminder of how evil slavery was during that time in American history. It’s not like watching a historical biopic that might educate me or give me an interesting insight into how a significant figure or event can still be relevant and teach us lessons today (Like Charlie Wilson’s War or Argo): I don’t think there a resurgence of black slavery that requires us to revisit such a dark topic, is there? I’m certainly not weighed under by decades of cultural guilt over the issue – that is much more in the American zeitgeist than the British one. I’m just simply daunted by the fact that this film is just going to make me feel sad & frustrated.
I will absolutely get around to it – the day will come when the mind set is right and I can get over the fear of the difficult watch. When that day comes I’ll let you all know!