Saturday, December 22, 2012
Spielberg's Lincoln is worth seeing, but far from being the great achievement some people seem to think it is. It features very good actors, and manages to maintain dramatic tension throughout, despite the facts that we all know what's going to happen and that it's two and a half hours long. That's some achievement. But there's something trashy about it all the same. Two things, to be precise (three if you count this kind of complaint, but I'm not historian enough to judge its merits): some of the acting is better suited to the stage than the screen (what Kate Masur found moving I found contrived), and Lincoln himself is presented as a kind of prophet or god rather than as a man. He's like a cross between Heraclitus and Moses (played by Alvin Plantinga). Everything he says is wise or at least wise-sounding, albeit perhaps sometimes too deep for others to understand. His longer speeches are all accompanied by music apparently designed to let us know we are witnessing greatness, and distracting us from the actual meaning of his words by working so hard to prompt the desired emotional response. No doubt Lincoln was a remarkable man, but I wonder whether he (as presented here) would be credible as a man at all without the distraction of the music. No one talks like that all the time. (Not even Heraclitus or Moses, I would think.) I wonder what non-US audiences will make of it.