Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Anatomy of a Scene: Solomon Northup Chained in '12 Years a Slave'

Interviews
by Bill Desowitz
February 19, 2014 4:26 PM
3 Comments
  • |

And then Northup pieces together memories of how he got there in a series of flashbacks that are intercut with his mounting anger when he can't break free. Walker also match cut sounds and music to emphasize his horrible predicament and the life he's left behind. 

"There's also a flashback where he's turning in bed and rousing from sleep in the cell. The idea being that this is a guy who likes to wake up in the morning and turn towards his wife and we finish off that noise with the sound of a manacle clicking. We then used the rhythm of him struggling to pull away from the wall with the visual of him struggling to climb the stairs. So we used all kinds of mirroring and imaging, not only within the sequence but from earlier sequences, and, of course, the whole thing ends with him being put to bed and one of them blowing the candle out, and at that point, two new people come into cell and say, 'How are you doing, boy?' And on we go into a beating, which is pretty much conveyed in one shot."

Thus, it was important to stay ahead of the viewer early on, compressing time and events so that it happens all too quickly like a nightmare, as Northup goes from one freedom to slavery in a matter of a minute.

"That took a lot of rough decisions about material to lose, but also was just a general dynamic that the whole show should be from the point of view of Solomon, where his emotional thoughts drive the narrative rather than following one event after another," Walker reiterates. "We put a lot of material in the rear view mirror, if you like, but so much of the movie benefited from being thrown into this flashback structure."

Indeed, this subjective approach elevated Northup's horrifying plight into something more relevant and relatable -- and with much greater visceral power. Which is why "12 Years a Slave" still remains the favorite to win the best picture Oscar.

3 Comments

  • John C. King | February 20, 2014 1:06 PMReply

    The editing in the scene where Paul Dano sings is mesmerzing. It was surreal, which is how the protagonist must have felt.

  • Dede | February 20, 2014 6:39 PM

    Yes!!

  • No | February 19, 2014 4:45 PMReply

    I will be very surprised if 12 Years a Slave wins best picture. It looks back to a past that Americans are often in denial about.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Not So Fast: David Lynch Says No New ...
  • Robert Downey, Jr. Starrer 'The Judge' ...
  • Colin Firth and Mark Strong Spook Nicole ...
  • Aronofsky, Favreau and Murch to Talk ...
  • Trailers From Hell on 'Jesus Christ ...
  • Screen Talk Report from Halls of Comic-Con, ...
  • EXCLUSIVE TRAILER: 'Up Series' Director ...
  • Comic-Con 2014: Why 'The Giver' Is Like ...
  • WATCH: New 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill ...
  • Best of the Week: TIFF & Venice Stir ...