Revisiting 12 Years a Slave and what it means to ‘connect’

Chiwetel Ejiofor. Man oh man.

Trying to parse why I – and so many people, it seems – feel or felt left at arm’s length by this film. So many people say they admire it more than anything, that for all the world they can appreciate its beauty but it just doesn’t connect.

And I begin to realise that, well, that’s kind of the point. The first time I saw this it seemed as though the aloofness of McQueen’s approach the material was a bug, but really it’s a feature. There’s an extent to which I think we all want to watch a film like this and come away with a greater sense of understanding, a better comprehension of exactly how a story like this comes to be made truth. Every time McQueen severs the audience’s connection, or prolongs a scene to the point of it snapping like a string on a violin, it’s a deliberate affront. We – and I use the royal we with specificity and in self-reference to my exceeding whiteness – can’t comprehend this.

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Review: Prometheus – a perspective (pt. 1, non-spoiler)

(I am making any and all attempts to have this be a spoiler free page, so if you choose to comment, please make sure you’re not ruining anything for anyone else. This part of the review will mostly exist to make you want to see it – the other part, to be linked to at the end of this one, will be for after you’ve seen it. Any debate containing spoilers should be confined to that page.)

My favourite film of all-time is 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is no film I love more than Kubrick’s stunning and terrifying masterpiece. At the same time, I don’t profess to be a buff of the sci-fi genre. In fact, in writing this, I must admit that I only saw the original Alien a few months ago, and the direct sequel, Aliens, a couple of weeks ago. I watched them in preparation for Ridley Scott’s return to this universe, Prometheus, a beguilingly complex film whose strengths lie in its exploration of the thematic moreso than the expectations placed on it as a result of its lineage – that is to say, what most people assume this will be is a return to the atmospheric monster-horror that Alien more or less perfected.

Alas, that it is not.

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