Invictus (Motion Picture, 2009, directed by Clint Eastwood).
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
According to this motion picture with the same name this is the marvelous and inspiring poem that helped Nelson Mandela cope with his long imprisonment. It is also the poem he reportedly gave to the captain of a South African Rugby team to inspire them to win the Rugby League Championship and help unite South Africa after the end of apartheid and during his Presidency. This film is thus based on a true story and represents Nelson Mandela and South Africa at their best.
Anyone who follows this blog at all knows I am not a fan of motion pictures and seldom watch one. You can be pretty sure that if I admit to watching one at all it will not have much in the way of gratuitous violence and/or sex. Quite honestly, I cannot even remember when I saw a movie advertised on TV that did not include a great deal of both violence and sex. This fine movie, that my wife insisted I watch, does not contain much in the way of violence or sex, unless you consider Rugby a violent game, which it is. But that is the game, the violence is not featured as such. Personally, having seen a bit of Rugby in Australia and New Guinea, I suspect it may have been the first contest accidentally invented by two groups of brutal cave men fighting over the last bone of a cave bear. It is roughly like American football without either pads or many rules. However, it is an important game in England, Australia, and many other countries. As Rugby is not familiar to Americans there is a brief discussion of the rather simple rules. There is, mercifully, no mention of the extremely rowdy and sometimes belligerent fans that often upstage the game itself.
Nelson Mandela was shrewd enough to realize that if he could employ the popularity of Rugby to help bring the citizens of South Africa together it would be an extremely useful tool in creating a new nation where Blacks and Whites could come more easily together. It was and it did. This wonderful film is the story of this attempt. I have never been a big fan of Clint Eastwood (or Spaghetti Westerns) but I have to admit I think he did an absolutely fantastic job directing this film. Morgan Freeman is quite outstanding as Mandela (Mandela’s own choice for the role), and Matt Damon is completely convincing as the captain of what began as an all white Rugby team, but because of a deliberate PR campaign and Mandela’s enthusiastic support, became a national symbol and helped to unify the country. The scenes of Rugby football are extremely realistic and well done, the film is quite inspiring, and will probably bring most viewers to tears at times. It is an outstanding film that I highly recommend for everyone.