The film 12 years of slavery won several Oscars in 2013, including the best film. The film is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, an African American who was born free, but was kidnapped and forced to live as a slave in the United States.
The filming of the film was preceded by a thorough historical research, both the history that served as the basis for the plot, and the uses, customs and even the objects that were used in the nineteenth century, when the events occurred .
The film has been received with great pleasure by the public and critics. In it, the issue of slavery is treated in a stark and unambiguous manner. Beyond that, the film explores the condition of an obtuse and terrible power, and the way it manifests itself.
More than a legal possibility, the film shows that slavery is a worldview. It does not limit itself to exploiting another human being in order to derive as much profit from it as possible, but also implies a whole constellation of behaviors that go beyond the economic or political issue.
In 12 years of slavery it is clearly shown how those absolute powers want to control even the most insignificant aspects in a person’s life. Nothing escapes his vigilance. Nobody escapes his examination. It is not only a question of forcing another to work for the benefit of others and without compensation in return, but also to degrade, humiliate and deprive the other of any form of dignity.
Solomon, the protagonist of the film, is not only deprived of his freedom, but also his identity. They do not give you the right to continue using your name. They invent a story that replaces their real past and completely ignore their training, their tradition and their talents.
They annul all the symbolic elements that distinguish him as a human being, to turn him into simply “another slave”.
Martyrdom goes through history completely. Slavery is not limited to hard work from sunrise to sunset. It also means obeying any order, however absurd, and being able to tolerate physical torture at the whim of the master. In the film, slavery is revealed as what it is on the plane of the human: a perversion.
Deception and power
Deception is one of the driving forces of history. Solomon Northup ends up being a slave due to a deception of which he is a victim. And the first thing he learns is that he must lie if he wants to survive. He can not (should not) be a black lawyer. Knowing how to read and write is a danger. The masters would take it as an affront.
The “compassionate masters” that Solomon finds in his path are beings who justify and deceive themselves. They treat the slaves with a certain condescension. But they use slavery and in extreme situations do nothing but wash their hands.
In his desire to return to being a free man, Solomon makes the mistake of entrusting a target with his exit plan. Deposit all his trust in him, and he is deceived again. He, in turn, manages to avoid the situation by deceiving his master to avoid punishment. Probably death.
In any absolutist regime, the truth is a problem. In this case, “truth” does not refer to that powerful scientific or philosophical construction. We speak rather of that simple truth, which does not demand more proof to be verified. That it is night or day; that what was said was said, or was not spoken of; that milk is white and roses have perfume.
For perverse powers, having control over these everyday truths is fundamental. It does not matter how true or false an affirmation is. What matters is who says it. And if the person who has the power says it, it is consecrated as absolute truth.
Power is not only power over bodies, but also over minds, discourses, the image of reality.
Very American-style, the story has an end in which justice is done. Solomon manages to recover his freedom thanks to the good offices of a target that ends up helping him. The rule of democracy, of the truth, is imposed. Hollywood usually gives us a hint of hope at the end of all his films.