Thoughts on “Lincoln”

Rusty and I saw the movie “Lincoln” last night. I have so many thoughts about it, and I know I won’t be able to organize them well this late at night, but here are some of my impressions:

I’m so glad that this movie came to Ecuador! I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t, and I really think the only reason it did was because it’s been nominated for so many Golden Globes and Academy Awards. It was a bit too technical and slow-moving for a foreign audience. It was not an action-packed war movie. It was more like a courtroom drama, filled with lots of legal jargon. I loved it, but as we were watching, I kept trying to imagine seeing this film as an Ecuadorian — first, hearing everything in a foreign language (with Spanish subtitles, of course), and then with only a surface knowledge of U.S. history and government. I know I would have been lost if I had been watching a film about one of Ecuador’s presidents.

At the end of the movie, I had the same feeling that I had after seeing “The Patriot” for the first time (which I also saw in a foreign country, by the way). The feeling of intense pride for my country. But with “The Patriot,” it was pride for our courage and fighting spirit, and with “Lincoln,” it was more a sense of pride in our system of government and how it works from a purely technical standpoint. There is a real genius in the American governmental system with all its checks and balances. I remember thinking this when I first studied U.S. government in high school, and it was brought home to me again in watching this film.

I was struck by how things really haven’t changed that much, politically¬† speaking in 150 years. People talk about how polarized we are as a nation right now, but I honestly don’t think you could get much more polarized than the U.S. was during the Civil War! The issues are different now, but there is still the same infighting, the same politicking and backbiting, the same refusals to work together as the film depicted during the struggle to pass the 13th amendment. Corruption was just as alive and well back then as it is today. Name calling? When Fernando Wood stood up and started his tirade against Lincoln, I couldn’t help but think that some of the things he was saying sounds a lot like some of the insults I’ve heard people level against our current president.

I did wonder if Lincoln really was as close as the film portrayed to inviting the Southern delegates to Washington for “peace talks” and thus scrapping the 13th amendment? Is that historically accurate or was that Hollywood taking poetic license with the story? If it’s true, and if he had made the other choice, things could have turned out very differently. I believe the 13th amendment would have passed eventually, but Lincoln himself would have left us a very different legacy. I can’t even imagine the weight of that decision, and I thought that scene in the film was one of the most touching and powerful.

I loved the story of George Washington’s portrait in the Englishman’s bathroom! A little crass, maybe, but hilarious all the same. I think Rusty and I were the only ones laughing in the whole theater, though! I’m not sure if the humor of the story didn’t translate well, or if the Ecuadorians in the audience just didn’t think it was funny.

And finally, a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “Votes for women?!” (Ha! God forbid!)
  • “Buzzards’ guts, man! I am the President of the United States of America! Clothed in immense power! You will procure me those votes!”
  • “A compass, I learnt when I was surveying, it’ll… it’ll point you True North from where you’re standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps and dessert and chasm that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp… What’s the use of knowing True North?”

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