Spielberg’s latest film portrays Lincoln in new light

Photo from thelincolnmovie.comSixteenth President Abraham Lincoln has been portrayed in over 40 movies and TV series.
Photo from thelincolnmovie.com
Sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln has been portrayed in over 40 movies and TV series.

Cristina Vasquez-Muñiz

It’s long been known that Hollywood’s version of history is not real history. Many “historical” movies come to mind, but is Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” another to be added to the list of “for entertainment purposes only” history?

Movies like “Braveheart” and “300” aren’t historically accurate, but they sure are entertaining. Even though William Wallace never even met Isabelle of France (seeing as she was four years old at the time) and Xerxes did not actually have the appearance of a 9-foot-tall effeminate Persian god, these fabrications are a part of what makes these movies entertaining. Without these gross exaggerations and made-up historical events and characters, who knows if these movies would have been as successful and thrilling as they are, lies and all.

“They want to create entertainment, and what they do in the name of entertainment often blurs history,” said U.S. Studies teacher Tim Cashel.

Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” the movie “Lincoln” tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day Lewis) psychological and political tug-of-war between ending the civil war and ending slavery. As Lincoln works to pass the 13th Amendment, he finds himself facing bipartisan opposition, but pushes on to pass the bill in a month’s time.

Throughout history, Lincoln has been described in many different ways. U.S. Studies English teacher Kristin Moore called him “pragmatic.”

“He was very compassionate, but at the same time he was willing to make tough decisions,” said Cashel. “He was extremely intelligent and could anticipate the consequences of his decisions to make the best choice. He was thoughtful.”

Lewis is uncanny in his portrayal of Honest Abe, not only in the obvious physical similarities and demeanor, but also in his voice.  As a British actor, Lewis is famous for the full commitment and extensive research he puts into his characters, especially their voices. Whether it’s his southern drawl in “There Will Be Blood” or his New Yorker accent in “Gangs of New York,” Lewis’ native voice is unrecognizable in his roles.

Lewis’ approach of Lincoln’s voice is something very new (compared to the deep voices of other portrayals, most notably Gregory Peck’s), but this new, high-pitched and almost nasally voice has even impressed historians with its accuracy. Lincoln is known as a great orator, but unknown to many is that his voice, always portrayed as deep and booming, was actually a tenor. Despite this, he was very famous for his speeches and stories, in which he projected his voice and captivated millions of Americans.

Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln showed him as not only honest and compassionate but highlighted his introverted and melancholic nature.
“It painted Lincoln in a light that was both heroic and flawed,” said junior Carl Wickman.

The movie also takes on the struggles between Lincoln and his (thought to be bipolar) wife Mary Todd Lincoln (played by Sally Field), as they try to deal with the grief from the loss of their 11-year-old son, William.

“I’d rather have a historically accurate movie than an entertaining one (just so the audience isn’t fooled), although I’m sure it’s possible to have both. ‘Lincoln’ didn’t seem too off, though,” said Wickman.

It wasn’t too far off. Sure, there are a few historical bloopers and anachronisms. 50-star flags waving to celebrate the passing of the 13th Amendment, in a time where there were only 36 states, for example.

Despite the few slip-ups, Spielberg shows (in 150 minutes, nonetheless) that entertainment and the truth are not mutually exclusive. “Lincoln” is a Dreamworks picture, rated PG-13.

One thought on “Spielberg’s latest film portrays Lincoln in new light

  1. You know, there is a theory that he intentionally used the 50 star flag when he wanted a particular scene to have a current political meaning.

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