A few weeks after viewing “Lincoln,” I still see images from this film, but especially the one of Lincoln’s young son infatuated with the glass pictures of slaves for sale. The candle behind the glass illuminating the prices of the slaves is disturbingly beautiful — just like this film. Spielberg always finds the way to get inside of his characters, but I was not prepared for the emotion this film evoked from me. Watching it just after the election, it reminded me of how far we have come, especially when current events force me to feel otherwise.
I loved the book upon which the film is based. What a daunting task to turn those 700 pages by Doris Kearns Goodwin into a film, but Spielberg armed himself with someone equally brilliant: Tony Kushner. The screenplay is delicious, heartbreaking, and fascinating. And that’s what Spielberg delivers in every frame. He never has been shy about representing different aspects of race on screen, even though it was not easy or palpable. Slavery? Black people are pissed. White people are guilty. Everyone in between is confused. Spielberg dares you not to watch, not to feel, not to be grateful, not to want to make a change.
Charles Randolph-Wright, a member of the original “Dreamgirls” cast, returns to Broadway to helm “Motown the Musical,” to open in April.