Friday, February 13, 2015
"I cannot hide."
These three words faultlessly describe a man, of not only a rabid intellect, but one with a heart of pure charisma and pride. It is true that Martin Luther King Jr. was the face of this profound statement in human history, but beyond being the initiator of a seemingly unstoppable force, he was a family man with a deep respect for religion and humanity, itself; an aspect expressed almost too well in one of the best pictures of the year.
It is a rather disheartening feeling when watching "Selma," a film that chronicles the famous events that resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965; to view such a influential personality, at the time of his greatest achievement, while knowing the tragedy that strikes soon after, is certainly the most demoralizing example of dramatic irony I've ever partaken in--at least, in a historical sense.
The events of this turbulent period unravel, in the fondest manner in which we can remember them, and essentially focus on the personal conflict, and the battle of wills between Dr. King and Lyndon B. Johnson. Although it is quite a romanticized notion to think of this confrontation in an individual versus societal context, considering the abundance of support received from the African American community, as well as clergymen from around the country--but it would seem that is exactly what is taking place here.
President Johnson, much like every other national leader, was a man of political priority, not to mention his attitude toward racial equality, which seemed to be obstinate at best. Yet, it is this static quality that fuels the picture, and in many ways than one. Johnson is utilized as dramatic foil to Dr. King, albeit indirectly, and the conversations between the two are arguably the most fascinating and vital to the structure of things; let's face it, there would be nothing to discuss here if it was just a simple meet and greet, along with a radical change of heart.
"Selma," in many respects, is a beautiful film to behold, not only for its emphasis on the human condition, which provides numerous scenes of a sentimental composition, but for its aesthetic expression as well. There is a sense of warmness provided by a color palette consisting of yellows and pale blues, which give the film a soft and diffused look, the ladder of which being executed through a magnificent display of lighting. (A seemingly forgotten art in the Hollywood of today.) In fact, there are several instances where the lighting becomes the most important facet of the scene itself, which only proves how indispensable this craft can be.
David Oyelowo, an actor who has spent the last decade wallowing in bit roles and insignificant parts, finally hits the mark here, in what is undoubtedly a breakthrough performance. To step into the shoes of a man of this stature is a complicated task, yet Oyelowo never shows any signs of distress and is as calculated in his delivery than most actors could ever dream. The most prominent characteristic of this portrayal is clearly his ability to capture Dr. King's natural rhythm of speech, which gives a subtle insight into the soul of this iconic figure. There was never a moment where I sat back and thought of this man and his importance to this country, but it was more of an involved feeling, which is a quality that every actor should strive to achieve.
With regard to the sole weakness of the picture: It was a poor decision to add written logs, that absolutely have no purpose in the frame of work, except to become nothing more than an annoyance and distracting blemish of what is an otherwise blatant masterpiece. We understand that American intelligence was keeping note of Dr. King's movements and actions, and this act of displaying information that we are already aware of, is not only unwarranted, but it is one of the most striking flaws I've taken into account.
The individual who made this erroneous choice of design should suffer the consequences although I am sure it will go unnoticed by most moviegoers, who have become quite accustomed to things of this sort.
What makes this picture so devastatingly unique is its theme, which in the context of cinema history, has been shared by disparate subject matters, most notably ones that pertain to individuals who compete in the sport of boxing. The struggle for human dignity is a delicate matter, and one that is incredibly relative to real life. Every moral being has dealt with this ideal at one time or another, and although "Selma's" concern can really only be appreciated by African Americans, it is an eye-opening topic for all.
In many respects, it is the closing scene that encompasses the point of conveyance for the director, and something that surely must never be swept under the rug, to never have light illuminate its importance again. It is an issue that has been discussed, from the days of Frederick Douglass to the contemporary world, by the likes of Dr. King, of course, and more recently, Derrick Bell. Beyond the posing of "scorching irony," it is this idea of white consciousness that becomes a valid argument.
This illusion of equality has produced a moral attitude, which has unknowingly dominated the minds of white Americans for centuries. A manifestation of psychological identity, so to speak. Now whether or not you believe this makes racism a permanent aspect of life is highly subjective; however, one can not refute its fundamental significance in modern society. While "Selma" cashes in on this reflective state of mind, one cannot help but to wonder as to how much more of an impact Dr. King could have made.