Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Since Nelson Mandela’s death on 5th December, the film of his life takes on a new importance and poignancy as people around the world revise the impact of this revolutionary politician. The film’s responsibility of handling the life of one so prominent and loved suddenly increases tenfold, as interest in Mandela’s life is amplified by his passing.
The film addresses Mandela’s life events with accuracy and tact, though understandably these have to be covered briskly to heed all the details. However, the film does manage to pace the story skilfully, with the use of camera filters and careful colouring evoking the span of eras across the film and transporting the audience back in time. The aging of Nelson and Winnie Mandela also moves the story along in time effectively, as Idris Elba and Naomie Harris pay constant attention to their characters’ outward signs of physical and mental transformation throughout the years.
Elba is meticulous in his portrayal of Mandela, as we witness moments of unrestrained anger, grief and happiness interspersed within Mandela’s constant core of strength and morality. Naomie Harris provides an underlying, unwavering fire throughout her heartfelt performance as Winnie – from her introduction as an idealistic young woman in love, through a journey of unimaginable pain, to her life as an older woman anxious to settle the score.
William Nicholson’s screenplay presents an honest and balanced view of events, not shying away from Mandela’s unpleasant treatment of his first wife Evelyn, or Winnie Mandela’s insatiable desire for revenge. The film wisely avoids sensationalisation, allowing history to speak for itself. In doing so, the film also avoids coming across as exploitative, as can be the danger with blockbuster recreations of historic events. The result is moving, tragic and charming in appropriate measures.
Leaving the cinema, the weight of Mandela’s 27 years of imprisonment bears down on the audience, and the tragic years of oppression and violence resonate with unsettling freshness. Rooted in inspired casting and skilled acting, Mandela’s biopic tells the story all should hear, with sincerity and cinematic beauty.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is released on 3rd January 2014.
Watch the trailer for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom here: