So, I went and watched The Birth Of A Nation, rip-roaring masterpiece or whip crackingly bad?
A slave turned preacher leads a revolution in this historic biopic.
It feels somewhat weird to say, but a film with such “controversial” topics like slavery have become the safe bet when it comes to Awards Season. Go back to films like 12 Years A Slave, or Django Unchained, or The Help, or Belle, or Lincoln. From this, almost impossible to make a bad film about slavery, not entirely mind you.(Seek Manderlay.)
So, with much hype and actual behind the scenes “controversy” we finally get The Birth Of A Nation.
This film is from a first time director by the name of Nate Parker(who also stars in this film as a character called Nat Turner, that really tricked me up as I was watching the credits.) Parker clearly had a lot of faith and heart put into this project as he gives a thunderous performance. Armie Hammer, who I didn’t know was in this movie, gives what might be his best performance.
Visually, this film looks very interesting, the film is very dry and stoic with some restrictive handheld cinematography. The film is set in Virginia, so the expansive white cotton fields provide a good looking backdrop.
Despite the film being visually pleasing, The Birth Of A Nation is badly directed. Scenes would have no rhythm and would feel like the wrong length for the scene’s subject matter. The first half of the movie, where not much happens, feels juttingly slow, whereas the second half of the movie, where a whole heap of stuff happens, feels chaotically rushed. Parker’s direction is very un-cohesive without flow between the stings of the narrative, this may have also been due in part to his script.
Speaking of scenes with jarring lengths, the editing in this film was atrocious. Honestly, this is some of the worst editing of the year, a year that includes Suicide Squad!
Some shots would just keep going and going, with seemingly no purpose, which clashed with the quick cut scenes of violence. I am truly baffled by the some of the editing choices in this film, a few times the film would cut back to something from an hour ago for no reason.
I’ll give you an example: Around three quarters of the way through this film, we get a flashback of a white child merrily skipping along a porch with a black child on a leash. The only thing that I could come up with to make that scene make sense was that him seeing those children was what pushed him over the edge. However, this can’t be what pushed him over the edge because the scene where the children skipped along the porch was set months ago. If the sight of the black child on a leash was the thing to set him off, then he would have committed these horrific acts of violence then, not months ago.
Despite all of this, I have to say that The Birth Of A Nation is disappointingly watchable. You can put this movie on at home and watch it without qualms, and that’s the film’s biggest problem.
A film about slavery and revolution should get under your skin, you should be angry and annoyed so that when the film concludes, you feel like you have had an emotional connection to the story. The Birth Of A Nation is overwhelmingly distant from the emotion of the subject and instead wallows in the safe and predictable.
The Birth Of A Nation, a film without reason to describe itself.