Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Trailerspotting engages with Lincoln

It’s hard to know what to say about this. Oh, yeah. I know what to say. It looks exactly as I expected Lincoln to look when, four score and seven years ago, I heard that Steven Spielberg was easing the thing …

Wed, Sep 19, 2012, 22:11

   
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It’s hard to know what to say about this. Oh, yeah. I know what to say. It looks exactly as I expected Lincoln to look when, four score and seven years ago, I heard that Steven Spielberg was easing the thing into production.  It’s got big swelling chords (anyone know if this is the actual score?) It’s all tastefully lit in HBO candlelight. Large swathes of history are conveyed through anguished, deeply packed phrases that reduce complex issues into Victorian soundbites. “Congress must never declare equal those whom God declared unequal”: that sort of thing.

The notion of Steve telling another story in this era is deeply worrying. He’s made worse films than Amistad. But he’s made none that is quite so boring. Look at the shot at about 1′ 11″. Does he actually have Lincoln standing in billowing curtains? Now hang on. There is only one sort of movie creature who should be allowed to stand in billowing curtains. He or she lives off human blood and is unable to go out after sunup. You know what I’m talking about. Things get even more worrying when Tommy Lee Jones — Thaddeus Stevens, apparently — turns up wearing a wig that even Sonny Bono might have thought twice about.

Lincoln is a near religious figure in the United States and those sorts of personalities rarely inspire genuinely great films. The flaws that make characters interesting are rarely on display. Even the Vampire Hunter incarnation was allowed few indiscretions. Everything about this reverential trailer screams hagiography.

All those moans put away — and noting, as ever, that trailers tell us little about the finished product — we should make positive mention of Daniel Day-Lewis. Check out that voice. It sounds nothing like DDL and, more impressively, it sounds nothing like any previous impersonation of Lincoln. Most actors go for the big, sonorous important tone: Orson Welles with a pebble in his mouth. Day-Lewis allows Lincoln to speak in a strangely fragile, oddly cracked timbre. One must assume that Steve and Dan have dome their research. Anyway, it certainly looks like an interesting performance.

We must wait until January to see (and hear) the thing in full.

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