If you’d like to feel terrible about humanity, watch a double billing of this film and 12 Years A Slave.. You’ll need an hour-long hug following it.
The Basic Premise
The Birth Of A Nation tells the incredible story of Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a real-life enslaved Preacher living in Virginia in 1831, who ultimately decided to rise up against the atrocities committed by slave owners.
My Thoughts On The Characters And Story
The Birth of a Nation will definitely make certain audiences incredibly uncomfortable. There are graphic scenes depicted about a subject matter that may cause discomfort for the general moviegoer… All that said, as a ridiculously huge fan of historical dramas myself I enjoyed watching Birth of a Nation albeit it felt a bit tedious to watch at times. I do appreciate the prospect of changing the meaning of this film’s title that is synonymous with D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent film that portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as some type of heroic entity, saving us all from the scary and dangerous black people!
If you have three hours to spare, I recommend watching the entirety of Griffith’s film on the YouTube.
Be warned, many of those involved in the creation of that picture were entirely high on stupidity at the time but it is an important relic in film history.
The progression of Nat Turner’s life is executed nicely and a majority of the characters he encounters are intriguing. I understood the motivations various character had however it is pretty paint-by-numbers and there are moments & even dialogue you can easily predict if you’ve ever seen a Hollywood picture on slavery.
The transitions between stages of Nat’s life are abrupt at times and, being a film of historical relevance, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t implement just a quick reminder on the bottom of what year it was. This is a small nitpick but utilizing this technique could possibly make audiences appreciate the progression of the story.
I have to say though, watching Nat’s life in this 2 hour film was incredibly jarring yet mesmerizing, there are emotions this film evoked in me that I didn’t even know I had! I felt anger, disgust, immense rage and other synonyms that haven’t been invented yet for certain characters, particularly for Samuel Turner, portrayed fantastically by the almost-too-attractive-to-be-real Armie Hammer. His character played an enormous role in the film and Hammer was effective in the amount of screen time he had.
Hammer’s character had flaws and complexities to him however it would have been interesting for the development of Nat Turner to have explored their relationship a bit more. I did enjoy watching the dynamic between the two, Nat’s rather one-dimensional note of a character is enhanced because of those that surround him; Aja Naomi King portrays his wife, Cherry and I honestly felt Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years A Slave vibes from her, she was incredible to watch.
How Were The Other Aspects Of The Film?
The Birth Of A Nation is a beautiful looking film, Nate Parker does a pretty great job with his directorial debut and I look forward to seeing what he directs in the future.
There are sequences where some of the most deplorable actions a human being can inflict on another human occur but I simply couldn’t look away because I was locked in with what was on screen. There are moments I literally felt my gut turning. I felt uneasy. I was unnerved. I held onto my soda for dear life and felt legitimate joy that I was only watching this. How individuals can suffer like this and hold on out of sheer necessity for life is a notion I don’t even want to fathom. There are one or two attempts, however, at blatant symbolism that made me think, “okay… I get it.”
The music utilized in the film is great, there is a haunting rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” by Nina Simone used that was one of my favourite scenes in the film. It was difficult to watch but the addition of that song made it all the more powerful.
If you’re looking for a drama about the progression of an individual during a time of immense struggle & hardship and have a few hours to spare, check out The Birth of a Nation.
The Birth Of A Nation (2016) receives 3.5/5 Matt Damon heads.