17 January 2014

Mandela

Cinema 4 at "The Showroom" in Sheffield's city centre was packed yesterday morning to see the over-55s screening of "Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom". You may recall that during the London preview of this film on December 5th, news broke that Mr Mandela had died. Prince William and his wife The Duchess of Cambridge were in that audience and the earlier red carpet ceremonies had been attended by Nelson and Winnie's two daughters - Zindzi and Zenani. A spooky co-incidence.

So - to the film itself. It did its job. It told the wide-arching story of Nelson Mandela's struggle and covered many of the key moments in his life. I must be a soft so-and-so because I must admit that there were moments when I wept - such as the day that Zindzi finally got to see her father at his prison on Robben Island and the bright afternoon in 1990 that he walked out of Victor Verser Prison, a free man ready to lead his people. Yes the film did its job and told Madiba's remarkable story very well. It is a story with which we are of course all familiar - a parable of our times.

Before seeing the film, I was aware of the many plaudits that the main actor - Idris Elbe has received. Now I don't wish to be churlish but I felt that his portrayal of Mandela wasn't entirely convincing. Elbe is a healthy, strong physical specimen and someone who is used to playing tough guys but Mandela needed more vulnerability, more dignity, more twinkle-eyed humour in my humble opinion. I felt that Morgan Freeman  got much closer to that in the rugby film "Invictus" (2009). Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela was excellent - demonstrating that wine doesn't always mature well with age.The loveliness of youth turned to bitter vindictiveness during Mandela's twenty seven years in jail. Harris showed this well.

Surprisingly, Mandela once said that he had enjoyed his incarceration. He had felt like a monk, with plenty of time to reflect, to work out his ideas and in a curious way he had enjoyed the simple harshness of prison life. Elbe and his director - Justin Chadwick - failed to convey with conviction that intricate sense of how things were for him. So "Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom"  had its flaws but in the end it is a damned good film and seeing it is another way of saying goodbye to a very remarkable human being - a man who lived in our times.

14 comments:

  1. You are probably not familiar with Walter Kempowski's works (in fact, I'd be surprised if you had ever heard his name). He was a German author - my favourite contemporary author - who died some years ago and made it his purpose in life to chronicle everyday life in Germany all through the last century, beginning with his own family, through two world wars and all the political and cultural changes that century saw.
    He grew up in the Eastern part of Germany and, while this was still seperated from the West, was imprisoned for political reasons. He spent 8 years behind bars, partly in isolation confinement. He wrote about these 8 years later in a book that can't leave the reader untouched. And he, like Mandela, said at some stage that "Eigentlich war es doch schön", "actually, it was good". He meant less the monkish aspect but more the close-knit community of other prisoners like him, who set up lessons in the prison, a choir, and tried with amazing success to keep some sort of normality in their lives and survive without too many emotional scars.

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    1. Thank you for the interesting connection Librarian. There's a similar notion in Alan Parker's excellent "Midnight Express" (1978) when the imprisoned central character's chant likens incarceration to monastic enlightenment.

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    2. Thanks from me too Ms Librarian! A quick google search isn't throwing up many English translations of his work, but I'm hoping a librarian will be able to help - which of any of his works translated into English would you recommend to start with? Thanks!

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    3. Hi Brian, "Days of Greatness" is the start of his family chronicle and a good starting point of getting "into" Kempowski. I can not say anything about the quality of translation, since I have only ever read his works in German, where his style is unique.

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    4. Thanks /danken(?!),
      Brian

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  2. Damn, I will have to wait until May before I can qualify as over 55 and see the film.

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    1. I am sure you could sneak in before then. Given your craggy, battle worn appearance, flatulence and cantankerous nature, none of the duty staff would ever imagine that you haven't yet fulfilled the age requirement!

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    2. You are probably right. I could also borrow a Zimmer frame as well as dressing Lara up in uniform and taking her along as my nurse.

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    3. May I suggest a pvc uniform for Lara and a big dose of cyproterone acetate for yourself.

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  3. I've not seen either of the films, so thanks for your insights ... what with cinema not being cheap for the under-55s, I have to pick and choose. But I've still got my "Free Mandela" mug to honour his memory with every time I have a cuppa!

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  4. How much did you pay for your "Free Mandela" mug or was it free?

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    1. Worst mistake I ever made was to invest in a company specialising in 'Jail Mandela' merchandise.

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    2. Ha! Ha! Bad Parrot!

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    3. Can't remember the cost (avoiding your joke), but I did keep on to it throughout the 90s (and up to the present day) despite my wife saying we should get rid of it. I just thought, being a Yorkshireman, what if he gets jailed again over some traffic offence or whatever, there's no way I'm buying another bloody mug!

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.