Monday, 10 May 2010


“Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.” - Desmond Tutu

Well back home today, but only for a short time as tomorrow I am off to Brisbane for a few days for work. I saw Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film “Invictus” on the plane on the way to Perth in my recent trip. I have gained a lot of respect for Eastwood’s directorial work in the last few years and this film was no exception, up there with “Unforgiven”, “Gran Torino”, “Bridges of Madison County” and “Million Dollar Baby”.

Firstly let me say that I don’t follow rugby and was not familiar with the real story on which the film was based. However, I was aware of Nelson Mandela’s return to power and this for me was the real story. The rugby story was window dressing (which rugby fans will probably disagree with), and for me a metaphor for South Africa, the country and its people, struggling to heal the damage done by decades of apartheid.

The film starred Academy Award Winners Morgan Freeman as South African President Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as Rugby Captain François Pienaar. “Invictus” is a movie full of emotional highs and lows, passion and poignancy. It tells the story of Nelson Mandela's first years as President of South Africa in the 90’s, a riven country, which apartheid has scarred. In a master-stroke of unification of his people, Mandela used the country’s love for rugby to connect the whites and the blacks. The national team, the Springboks, have a poor record of winning but Mandela taps the captain of the team to rally his troops and surge into battle for the greater good of his country.

“Invictus” is a short 1875 poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley. The title is Latin for “unconquered”. The poem mirrors the spirit of the film and I give it to you here in its entirety:


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
                         William Ernest Henley

Freeman gives a wonderful performance and one sees that this role meant a lot to him. Damon is less convincing as he is not as hulking as the real rugby player Pienaar, perhaps, but the intensity of his performance does counterfoil Freeman’s cool, calm and collected Mandela. The personality of the leaders (of the country and of the team) is countered well, and the differences between black and white in the divided country are exposed for the world to see by Eastwood’s sensitive handling of the material that is more than 95% true.

I shall probably watch this film again, the second time not on a plane as I am sure there are many bits of dialogue I missed and the screen on a plane is poor substitute for the screen of a cinema or of a TV screen at home. However, even when watched in the less than ideal environment of a plane, the film was very good and I recommend it most highly.

1 comment:

  1. 生活盡可低,志氣當高潔. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .