There may be humane masters, as there certainly are inhuman ones – there may be slaves well-clothed, well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half-clad, half-starved and miserable; nevertheless, the institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity as I have witnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous one. Men may write fictions portraying lowly life as it is, or as it is not – may expatiate with owlish gravity upon the bliss of ignorance – discourse flippantly from arm chairs of the pleasures of slave life; but let them toil with him in the field – sleep with him in the cabin – feed with him on husks; let them behold him scourged, hunted, trampled on, and they will come back with another story in their mouths. Let them know the heart of the poor slave – learn his secret thoughts – thoughts he dare not utter in the hearing of the white man; let them sit by him in the silent watches of the night – converse with him in trustful confidence, of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and they will find that ninety-nine out of every hundred are intelligent enough to understand their situation, and to cherish in their bosoms the love of freedom, as passionately as themselves.
― Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave
Solomon Northup was the son of a freed coloured man and a white woman. He lived in Saratoga, New York and had become a respected member of his community. He was well known for his violin playing.
Solomon was approached by two individuals that offered for him to come and play his fiddle (violin) for them at a benefit in Washington at which he could keep whatever earnings he was given. The two men had an event planned and needed musicians to entertain. Shortly after the benefit that went off without a hitch the two men and Solomon feast together and splurge on many glasses of wine. When Solomon wakes, he is in shackles and stripped of his fine suit down to his shirt. He starts to remember pieces of the night before but cannot place a memory of how he was to become in these shackles.
Solomon, along with other kidnapped coloured men, women and children are all transported for auction to the highest bidder. Mothers being separated from their children, people being told that they have a new identity. Unspeakable acts carried out for any man, woman or child that argued the point. A horrible time in America’s history. Solomon was quick to understand how to play the game to be given reprieve and to just go with what he was told after he was whipped to the point his back was lashed open, the flesh cut deeper with every single strike of the whip. This was the start of a change for him.
Soon after, Solomon was sold to a wealthy property owner known as Master Ford. Ford was a lenient man that believed that although he was in his rights to own slaves, he still believed that they deserved a certain decency of treatment. Unfortunately for Solomon, due to added pressure from one of the farm managers he snaps and beats the manager only to find himself in a noose about to hang. Ford eventually releases Solomon and sells him to another rich although more ruthless property owner.
It is here that Solomon becomes the master of the game until he trusts again and again is betrayed.
The story is an amazing tale of one man’s fight to not only stay alive in a ruthless and in humane slave world but his fight to one day take the right opportunity to find his freedom again. A true story that can draw anyone in to watching it. Some of the moments seem to have a lengthened pause that just seems to go for too long. It is hard to follow at times as it crosses from past to present which in my eyes are the only two downsides to this movie. Maybe some parts are also difficult to understand why things happened and why people had shown certain things then almost mirror imaged. But overall I really enjoyed the film. It could be one of those films you need to watch a couple of times to follow the whole story but I do recommend it as a good drama to watch.
Duff points 8/10