Before viewing The Birth of a Nation, I wasn’t sure what to think. I’m not always fond of film remakes, and at first this sounded like a retelling of the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. However I was pleasantly surprised to find out this film would be completely unrelated. Upon viewing The Birth of a Nation, I can genuinely say I enjoyed the film.
Directed by Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation follows the real life story of Nat Turner, an enslaved preacher who leads a revolt against his Virginian owners. It takes place back in the 1830’s, only a few decades before the American Civil War. The audience watches as Nat Turner not only grows older, but grows spiritually.
This film is backed by superb acting all around. Nate Parker playing Nat Turner is the most noteworthy performance. Watching him change from a more passive man to one that is willing to resort to violence. Nat’s personal development is very well constructed and was nice to reflect upon at the end of the film.
The plot itself sometimes got out of focus, more towards the beginning. Focus was put on aspects that, by the second act of the film, were irrelevant. And The Birth of a Nation does take a path ridden many times over in storytelling. It often feels like a standard Hollywood depiction, showing things that we’ve seen time and time again.
But, despite this, the narrative is told in an effective way. Many scenes in the movie are emotionally tense, and can keep the viewer invested in the characters. There is one scene in particular that I like where Nat is being repeatedly whipped at a post. The camera rests upon Nat’s face and all the audience can here is the sound of the whip cracking against his back. His facial expressions he made evoked a strong emotional response from me, especially when his mouth slowly curled into a bloody grin.
There is a deep religious message all throughout The Birth of a Nation. Nat Turner truly believes in the words of the Bible as he speaks them, and uses the word to defend and comfort his fellow slaves. As the film progresses, he uses the Bible to defend fighting for his freedom, even if it means through murder. Religion is an interesting theme throughout the film, dealing with how some people are willing to twist the Bible’s words to defend slavery. The Birth of a Nation takes the religious theme a different route than I expected and it definitely delivers.
The climax of The Birth of a Nation reminds me a lot of Braveheart. It is very powerful and emotionally moving. The scene shows the potency of hate, but the power that individuals can have against it. It’s hard to discuss the climax without giving it away, but I’ll just say that I really enjoyed it and felt it was moving.
Anyone that enjoys period piece dramas like 12 Years a Slave will probably like this movie. And people who like a strong religious message in their movies should look no further, because this film really drives the message home. Overall, I very much enjoyed my viewing of The Birth of a Nation and hope that others can share my opinion.