Amazing Grace

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 If you appreciate good dialog,   good acting in the storytelling of social-political change based on real events that can produce heated  post-viewing discussion  then you will thoroughly enjoy this film; “Amazing Grace”.  

:-)  :-)  :-)  

Ratings explained

The film is part of the UK celebration of 200 years, 25th March,  since the Abolition of the slave trade (slavery was still legal) in the British Empire.   America was no longer a part of the British Empire at this stage and continued to trade in Slaves as did European powers such as France, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.   The  film follows the lead abolitionist’s,   William Wilberforce’s, efforts.   The title comes from a song whose original lyrics are attributed to John Newton a repentant master of slave trading ships and influential adult in William Wilberforce’s life.   For me the film compares favourably to, can be classed with,  the classic play  “A man for all seasons“.    

Strengths:

  • Story.   This is a story worthy of being made into a film.   It stands without explosions,   sex-scandals,   profanity,   nudity.   So few films nowadays are sufficiently brave to leave these components out of the screenplay.   What does it include?   Horror,   suspense, tension, pathos,  wit,  conversation as an art-form and fabulous scenery (parliament buildings, big wooden sailing ships etc).
  • Cast.   For shere breadth of talent including Michael Gambon, Albert Finney, Ioan Gruffudd, Ciarán Hinds, Rufus Sewell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bill Paterson, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Jeremy Swift,  Youssou N’Dour.   The talent is doubley worth mentioning for their lack of conformity to the current  Hollywood standard of ‘beautiful’.   If you need a dosage of  current-standard pretty boys and this is not the film for you.   Hoorah!
  • Scene details.   For example the unusual card-tables for the parliamentary card-clubs,   the kitchen crockery and utensils in the background of the kitchen scenes.   Ioan looked wonderfully sickly and ill in many of the shots where he is supposed to be so,  no holidng back on under-eye darkness,   sweat,   and unsightly body contortions.  
  • rhetoric.   The parliamentary rhetoric was wondertful,  pressumably this was taken from original transcripts of parliamentary sessions.   The jibes are typically cheeky,   sarcastic,   cutting and yet the serve to reveal the weaknesses of the recipients position beautifully.   The rhetoric is not constrained to witty come-backs it includes some,   by no means all, of the arguments for Britian continuing to engage in  the slave trade.    The less positive reviews of the film on Rotten Tomatoes describe this tendancy as ‘Speechifying’ and ‘Talky’.   I like Speechifying when it isn’t lengthy  dull monolouges and I didn’t notice any lengthy dull monologues in this film.  

Areas for improvement:

  • slavery arguments: given the film focus I was slightly suprised by the low-profile given to some of the topical arguments for slavery.   For example,   if evolutionary theory was mentioned in the debate I missed-it.   The notion common in Britain that people were born to a natural status,   aristocracy,   working-class,   black (US = People of color) divined by God was not mentioned.   This seemed odd,   I would have liked at least some passing reference to these beliefe systems more clearly evident within the film.   The nearest reference to the notion that every person is born to a position in life was the reaction of the opposition to a petition of the people,   why should they take notice of a petition of the people?   The portrayal simply makes them look arrogant,   evil,   as viewers we are not lead to understand that it was a common belief that people were born with different capabilities,   different values to society.   I would have valued a little more clarification of the depth of impact of the American Independance and French revolution on the priorities of parliament.   Though I suspect this would have made the film even longer and more ‘speechifying’ which would have irritated more viewers that aren’t me.
  • slave trade is not slavery:   The film does not make it clear to the viewer that Slavery was still legal in the British Empire for a further 30 years.   This blog article by Louis Proyect points this out and provides an informative persepctive on a worthy storyline not tackled within this film.   The blog article includes details of   people portrayed in the film and cites a poem written by William Wordsworth dedicated to one of them.     Louis makes a convincing point  that William Wilberforce being portrayed as the lead role was perhaps not a good choice:

Every other abolitionist figure is subordinate to him, which is of course detrimental to the film since they are far more interesting than this bible-thumping prig.

  • shift girl focus from love interest:    Barbara Wilberforce (Romola Garai) wearing pink lipstick and lip gloss just didn’t ‘feel’ right though I realise the ladies of the day did have access to powders and creams that they used to change their lip colour.   Her wig was also suspicously  perfect and an unusual colour (redhead).   She sported the modern fashion for a voluptious top lip,   though not Scarlett Johansen proportions.    It was challenging to discern her talent from the odd accessories.   Hannah More is present in some scenes and even has some lines,   I was disappointed that her role was not more significant.   The cynic in me thinks the small contribution  her role in the film  might be because she was not young,   beautiful and married.     I visited Hannah’s birthplace while in Bristol last week:

Amazing Grace
rate wendys scribble

one wonderful muse on “Amazing Grace”

  1. Opfer zweiter Klasse - Hannah Montana(Miley Cyrus) Fan Club writes:

    […] Hannah More’s birthplace in Bristol Image by :: Wendy :: Wikipedia describes Hannah More’s life: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_More she has a ‘bit part’ in the recent film ‘Amazing Grace’: http://www.amazinggracemovie.com/ wendyhome.com/2007/03/25/amazing-grace/ […]

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