Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Invictus

Last night watched the film Invictus, the remarkable true story of South Africa’s 1995 capture of the Rugby World Cup, directed by Clint Eastwood. This really is a wonderful story with impressive performances, starring Matt Damon as team captain Francois Pienaar and Morgan Freeman as the irrepressible Nelson Mandela.

Kudos to Clint Eastwood for the stories he has been bringing to the screen in recent years. This one is again an inspired piece of work and shows that he has learned well the craft of storytelling in film. I don’t think we as Americans appreciate the full impact and power of Nelson Mandela’s life achievements, not only in bringing down apartheid but in becoming the elected president who united this wounded and torn country.

This would be a great film if for no other reason than to introduce more Americans to the power of poetry to inspire the soul. For it was the nineteenth century Henley poem Invictus from which Nelson Mandela derived the inner strength to overcome those who imprisoned him for 25 years and hard labor.

Invictus
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gait,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


If my comments above fail to persuade you to see the film, perhaps this excerpt from an imdb.com movie review will help.

As a South African who saw this film on Friday morning, I can tell you you the entertaining, inspiring and enjoyable "Invictus" exceeded all my expectations.

It really is a true story of epic proportions yet it's told with an intimate feel, and it is at least 98% accurate to the events of the time. Clint gets all the big details and so many of the little details right, but he never goes over the top. He directs with minimum fuss and achieves maximum effect, just letting the powerful story unfold without getting in its way.

I watched the 1995 Rugby World Cup and saw Madiba come out in the Springbok jersey. It was a wondrous sight. And when Joel Stransky slotted that drop kick over in the dying minutes and the Boks won, I wept and cheered along with everyone else. After the match millions of South African - of all races - celebrated. It was an amazing time. It was the birth of the "Rainbow Nation". Nelson Mandela is the greatest and most beloved of all South Africans. The man is a living legend, but so human and real. When he was President he brought hope to all South Africans, white and black. We, in my country, will never stop loving this incredible man. Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman did South Africa and our beloved Madiba proud. Francois Pienaar is also an amazing South African, an intelligent, big-hearted rugby played who always lead by example, and Matt Damon's performance as him was superb. I was glued to the screen for every second of the film's running time (I didn't even move from my seat until the final credit rolled and the house lights came on), and I was moved to tears on several occasions. The final scene was especially touching.

My only question at this point is, what will it take to unite our own country’s mix of races and ideologies? Politicians run for office with this pledge but we're more divided than ever. Perhaps this is what the Olympics is intended to be about to some extent?

In the meantime, rent the film. It's a good one. Thank you Clint, Morgan, Matt and crew. And thank you Mr. Mandela for your vision and fortitude. You've held up a light against the darkness.

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