By Janis Lawinczak (Bruchhausen-Vilsen, Niedersachsen, Germany)
“I have walked a long walk to freedom. It has been a lonely road, and it is not over yet.” These are parts of the final words in the movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The movie is a dramatic biopic directed by Justin Chadwick and is based on the autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” written by Nelson Mandela himself. In the movie, Nelson Mandela is portrayed by Idris Elba while his second wife, Winnie Mandela, is played by Naomie Harris.
The movie deals with the life of Nelson Mandela. It starts with a part of his childhood where he and other boys from his tribe perform a ritual to become an adult. The movie continues with the grown-up Nelson Mandela who is working as a lawyer, defending black people. He starts to notice how unfair black people are treated and begins to develop a strong opinion, that the laws should be changed, and the black people should not be oppressed anymore. Mandela joins the A.N.C and is passionately fighting for the rights of blacks. Also as his wife leaves him and he meets his soon to be second wife, Winnie Mandela. As he starts to fight more aggressively against apartheid and involves himself in various attacks on buildings, the government sees him and his group as a danger and chases to arrest them.
With the government now chasing after him, he quickly gets caught. After, an emotional hearing of Mandela in court takes place with the final decision to sentence him and the other culprits to a life sentence. A big part of the movie shows the life of Mandela in prison, while his wife, Winnie, replaces him in the A.N.C. As the fight for freedom turns into a gruesome war between citizens, encouraged by Winnie Mandela, the government is forced to ask for Mandela’s help, in defusing the current situation in South Africa. After negotiations, the government sets Mandela and his group free and establishes voting rights for black people.
Mandela takes his place as the leader of the A.N.C but finds the black population angry and with the urge to let the white people suffer as they did. Because of his disagreements with Winnie, they get divorced. But Nelson manages to ease the anger of the black population with an emotional speech in which he said: “If I can forgive them, you can forgive them too.” Mandela wins the election and becomes South Africa’s first black president. Although this would be a good ending, the movie continues with a scene similar to the opening scene where you can hear Nelson Mandela from the off and where he walks in the nature.
Justin Chadwick is a good director although this was his first biopic. He did a very good job and even received a price for this movie. He chose excellent actors who did an amazing performance and let the viewer understand the complicated emotions in this terrible situation. Justin knew exactly how to use camera motions, lighting and special effects. The beginning of the movie is a perfect example of well used voice-offs and lighting as you can hear Mandela’s voice from the off where he tells us about his dream. The muted pictures representing his words.
Some examples like this are found during the film over and over again. Justin used lighting to represent the emotions in a scene, for example while Mandela’s dream in prison, the colors were warm and pretty but when he woke up, the colors were cold and stiff. That clarifies the difference between his old life in his dreams and his current situation in prison. Occasionally, a little flashback is seen with beautiful landscapes and an extract of tribal, South African, tradition. Combined with an emotional soundtrack, containing also traditional South African music, the movie allows the viewer to really emphasize with the history of South Africa.
The movie tried to capture the span of Nelson Mandela’s entire life and obviously, in doing so, affected the length of the movie. Unfortunately, the movie seemed unnecessary stretched out and did not seem to really contain every bit of information that it was expected to have. Additionally, the movie contained little side scenes that neither provided to the plot nor gave important information.
All in all, the movie is great for someone interested in the history of South Africa, or particularly Nelson Mandela, that doesn’t mind a long movie. It could also be seen as a crash course for someone just starting to learn about history in South Africa. Not recommended is it, to watch the movie mainly for the purpose of entertainment and not for the information. Even through Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a beautiful movie, but without the right interest, it can become quite boring.