I was expecting 12 Years a Slave to be a film about time, in particular about how it feels when a portion of your existence is tragically stalled for some reason and then you are able to get out of it somehow. But there was no sense of the passing of time here. Maybe it was because Louisiana is tropical so there is no winter-summer alternation, but there must be some kind of noticeable wet season I guess. The time with Ford felt something like a year and the time with Epps felt like a couple of years, so all the time I was expecting a sudden fast forward which did not happen.
Instead, I found 12 Years a Slave to be basically a well-directed and well-acted study in the mind of the slaver, which is interesting because the urge to enslave others is something that we humans have inside ourselves, it’s even been an evolutionary advantage at some point I suppose, and it can be fought only through civilization. Unfortunately we still haven’t reached such a level of civilization to eradicate it, as slavery still exists in most countries in the world, in some of them illegally, in others quite legally. Anywhere I am in my area, at any given time, there’s probably at least one slave working, in some cramped basement, in the scope of one kilometer.
Of course we are invited to identify with Solomon, with his very respectable normal life, we are invited to be shocked and speechless in front the slavers, but the truth is that we meet slavers on an everyday basis and we are lucky that most of them can manage their instincts in our presence to more or less comply with the law, but the dynamic is so often borderline. Some of them are basically kind, but they won’t question the status quo, others will have found an ideological explanation for their ways. And normally they look nothing like Michael Fassbender or Benedict Cumberbatch, so they’re not even decorative.
So this is a very contemporary film and the rules apply to our everyday life, in every field (literal or abstract) where there is an abuse.
Do not trust the slaver, obviously. And for god’ sake do not trust the overseer. You may trust the Canadian, but first check if he’s an activist of sorts or at least a self proclaimed abolitionist.