With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
Tuesday night. Movie night with my bride.
Movie trailers can be calculated pieces of art. They attempt to be the perfect first date, hoping to tantalize just enough for another time.
Not currently cable subscribers, we saw the trailer for Selma online. It wasn’t the perfect first date but enough to pique our interest. Stirring scenes of violent beatings and chin-raising acts of defiance with Oprah Winfrey’s silent scream and Tim Roth’s stern posturing.
One thing trailers have is the neat, tight, movie in a box. They are rarely messy.
Selma is messy. It runs overlong, clocking in at over 2 hours. And I can see how the time is justified, to illustrate the extent of a man’s struggle, however it takes away from the film’s necessary momentum.
Selma is quiet. Films rooted in contemplative speeches and long shots of dialogue-free scenes letting the film’s soundtrack do the talking are judged by now the bursts of action are balanced out. One of the reasons I did not love Saving Private Ryan. A director with a clear vision can ride this specific wave and director Ava DuVernay knows the story she wants to tell.
Selma is brutal. The bursts of action contained in the film are beatings relentless and savage, not meant only to make us wince but make us face what we don’t wish to see. The camera doesn’t flinch.
Selma is stirring. One of the main reasons is David Oyelowo playing Martin Luther King Jr. Though the trailer may indicate the film is about a march I believe it is about King’s singular vision to achieve voting rights for black people. The struggle I mentioned earlier is all over Oyelowo’s face as he takes on the troubling task of guiding a movement to a specific goal. He doubts himself, fears for his supporters’ lives, lives a conflicted family life and faces powerful opposition while remaining ecclesiastically inspiring on the pulpit, at the Capitol steps and in front of reporters. Oyelowo walks a fine line and delivers an understated, confident performance. Many other performances are solid but I was especially taken with Tim Roth’s captivating role as Governor George Wallace. A man not concerned with legacy but rather with keeping things static. He doesn’t sneer or behave especially bombastic nonetheless bringing subtle playfulness and Southern pride to this very serious film.
Selma is important. Selma stands as a document of ideas about a shameful yet triumphant epoch. Its images will continue to resonate for years to come. And its portrait of a man who led people into victory and paid the price before his 40th birthday will continue to inspire.