"Fitted for Eternity
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (Last passage of the Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg,
November 19, 1863.)
Opening shot: the American Civil War, the first person we see and hear is a black man, soldier during 10 long years, the second we hear is Lincoln -whom we don’t see yet, we will see him very soon from the back, the same position as the audience’s- asking him about his situation, the third that speaks is another black soldier . They are paid less than whites. But in a hundred years, they will vote. The soldier has vision and recites words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of 1863, the most quoted words in American political history. Lincoln asks and listens to the Other: “Abraham Africanus the 1rst", as his detractors called him.
The movie shows Lincoln’s distinctive command of language, his good sense of humor, his ability to tell stories and to make the political issue personal to others by narrating an anecdote or a parable. Also his capacity for argumentation, guided by a clear vision. For example, his knowledge of Euclid’s self-evident principles gives him visionary imagination. Mathematics and logic as well as ethics have to do with the imagination, with seeing the consequences of the premises, and seeing the consequences of one’s actions.
Lincoln strongly believed that we had to end first slavery, then the Civil War, as the first was the cause and the second the effect. This seems simple, self-evident reasoning, but it is really difficult to recognize the order of priorities, which comes first and what comes next. His advisers saw it exactly reversed. Lincoln is emphatic: the passing of the thirteenth amendment is a military necessity.
Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field) advised him after the reelection: ‘you are loved by people, you can do whatever you want now, do not waste this opportunity’. The depiction of the relationship between Mr. President and Mrs. President is an asset in the characterization. Mrs. Lincoln says that her experience would help ordinary people, presumably like herself, to understand what means to live with an extraordinary man during extraordinary times. (The irony involved reminded me Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.) The characterization of Lincoln is well balanced because of these interactions. Though Lincoln is very conscious of his solitude, calls himself "the king of infinite space", and prefers to think alone.
Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), the most powerful abolitionist in the House, takes the House approval of the thirteenth amendment to his maid-mistress. For a moment I thought he would take it to Lincoln, at the top, to celebrate their triumph, but instead he brought it to whom this resolution will directly affect in real life, the people who are at the bottom, with no voice as are not considered people. Very tragic and ironic for the Democratic Party to have been so blind and troglodyte in this historic moment.
Lincoln is not afraid of the future, the unknown, the challenges ahead, he recognizes that he does not know black people and that he defends their freedom as a matter of principle (as a Kantian would do), he will learn from, and experience with them in the process. Interesting, Lincoln needs to see the corpses. ‘Never have seen anything like this.’
Excellent cinematography by Janusz Kaminski; mastery of light and shadow, chiaroscuro, of the composition of cinematographic space, interiors and exteriors, of angles, particularly, the diagonals that give movement, depth and the impression of a larger space. The windows, outside light coming through the window to the interior space, and the exterior seen in the distance. Father and young son, their shadows, reflected as a vision of free future generations. These techniques were masterly used by Vermeer and Murnau.
Excellent performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. Very handsome and stylized Lincoln!! "How tall is he?" The height, the attitude, the physical and moral heights. It is very difficult to perform “Lincoln”, he is very iconic and heavy.
Father Abraham wants to travel to the Holy Land after so many years of suffering. A black servant is the last person seeing President Lincoln walking away from the camera after his Amendment has been passed. Lincoln’s death, the first US president assassination, is presented briefly. It reminded me of the Iliad where neither the death nor the funeral of Achilles appear. In the penultimate shot, dead Lincoln is lying on a small bed, nestled as a baby, his face quite calm, it is obvious that his murder has not astonished him; then in the final scene at the Capitol, Lincoln is standing erect, in action, delivering a speech to the multitude in the middle of the frame. Again, command of composition, of inner space and outer space. For Lincoln, as a responsible president (as in the case of king Oedipus), both spaces, both bodies -the political and the private- are only one.
Thank you very much for the beautiful gift, director Spielberg.
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party duly shall have been convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 1)"