The film ’12 years a slave’ was released in 2013 by the Director Steve McQueen. He focused on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free northern black man who was captured, beaten and brought to Louisiana to work enslaved. He portrayed his struggle of being turned into a slave and then fighting for freedom. The movie is all about slavery and racism. The movie is tensed, unflinching, critical and bold in nature. It’s also a crowning achievement of a filmmaker whose command of the medium extends beyond mere narrative and its reductive, sentimental snares to encompass the full depth and breadth of its most expressive and transforming properties. 12 Years a Slave isn’t just a cathartic experience that happens to be an astonishing formal achievement: It works its emotional power precisely because it’s so elegantly constructed, from the inside out. The movie shows struggle of black men and how they faced discrimination and hatred. It is one of the most honest, descriptive and moral-based films. It is full of difficult experiences that are difficult to witness and hard to believe. One feels shivers down his spine, as he witnesses the amount of torture in the film and realizes about the hardships of a slave in the past.
The movie also serves an ‘educational purpose’ by teaching people about enslavement and bringing in awareness. It brings brutality in the centre and opens up this severe issue that isn’t very much discussed in the society. The film is raw and unapologetic and provokes people to a great extent. The film reveals about the main character ‘Solomon North’ who is a blessed guy who plays violin and lives happily with his family, but later he gets trapped and faces the worst circumstances in his life. But, even after all this, he keeps his spirits high with “I want to live”.
The movie also consists of sad music which further makes it gloomy and dark. The visual language of the film combines with the beauty and cruelty of the book and goes perfectly well on screen. The movie coolly clarifies the United States’ lasting social underpinnings: the seeds of black anger, black self-doubt, black resilience, white supremacy, and white guilt. The movie is a report of one man’s experience, but it represents the suffering and survival of many. It is a correction to the false reports of others. It is a work of beauty and thought: knowledge is brought to the film viewer through word, deed, and image. It extends beyond its depiction of the brutality of slavery to its depiction of the economic tentacles of slavery in the building and foundation of the United States. Yet, the film has worth as more than a record of a punishing history or evidence of contribution to the financial wealth of the country. It is a document of how humanity is threatened and preserved. Solomon Northup was a particular human being, a man of perception and special skills and it is that kind of individuality that injustice exploits, obscures, and perverts.
As much as we see it from the positive perspective, but the movie somehow leaves a dark impact on people’s minds too. Somehow, it promotes war/ violence, extremist thoughts and harassment and pornography (as women slaves are treated as lust objects rather than living beings). The movie disturbs people’s minds and violates their power to imagine, making them go numb.
If we further critically analyze the film, we see it exploring the relationship between trauma and visual media, scholars have argued that the inherent nature of film itself creates a particularly effective medium for representing the individual, lived experience and trans-historical trauma of slavery.
Two scenes in particular receive the most attention within critical conversations about the film: the hanging of Northup and the whipping of Patsey. The incredible violence and inhumanity depicted in these moments certainly render them memorable, but the more subtle aspects of the cinematography are what truly make them stand out from the rest of the film.
The movie also portrays that white mistresses badly and cruelly oppressing the black women slaves. Female slaves emerge as the individuals suffering the most abuse, becoming sexual objects for masters to prey upon. Alongside, they became victims of the mistress’ violence for these unwanted sexual advances from the master.
Last but not the least, movie also focuses on the concept of ‘survivalism’ and ‘suicide’ and it talks about Solomon’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour towards life after all the sufferings. The movie ends with Solomon’s return to his family and finally gets back to life.