Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Invictus" (2009)

It never ceases to amaze just how much sport can do. In the case of this true story, a nation that was hopelessly torn apart by racial prejudice and injustice began the move towards reconciliation and forgiveness by uniting behind the national rugby team. This film shows us the wisdom of Mandela. He knew that his nation’s future required reconciliation instead of revenge. He knew that he needed all of the people to come together—both the majority now free and the minority that still held most of the real power. He alone saw the opportunity that the World Cup was offering.

But what he didn’t do was orchestrate the win.

This is where the film falls short. Not the story. The film or at least the message that Eastwood is trying to impose upon the events. Or, maybe it is the source material, I haven’t read it.

The poem that Mandela took such inspiration from has some curious ideas.

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

It is amazing that Mandela could really believe those lines after the life he had led. The idea that he could control his destiny was laughable. Sure, you can decide that you won’t let circumstances change the man you are; that you won’t compromise or allow imprisonment or death to cause you to lose your faith. But the wisest of men understand that they are not in control and don’t command their destiny.

In this case, the sentiment of the poem really didn’t impact events. Mandela gave it to Pienaar, but what really inspired Damon’s character was Mandela’s capacity for forgiveness, not his self-determination. And ultimately Mandela got lucky, though he did take full advantage of his good fortune. Unless there were some behind the scenes orchestrations that ensured South Africa’s victory that we are not told about. And, in a story, things not told don’t happen.

The true inspiration to take away from this film is the way people can be brought together when they find commonalities; not some declaration of self-mastery.

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