CavWife and I finally watched Amazing Grace, the biopic on William Wilberforce. We suffered from some laser issues at times- the in-laws’ DVD player is in decline- which affected our ability to both enjoy it and follow the story line, at times.
I know a bit about Wilberforce, having read one of his books and read a short biography on him. In preparing a lesson on the slave trade I did some more research on him. As a result, I was more familiar with him than the other people in the room. As a result, I was able to fill in some of the gaps in the story line. The movie clocks in at a hair under 2 hours and it could have easily been longer. There were some things I wish were in the movie, which focused on his romance/marriage and lengthy battle in Parliament to abolish the slave trade. It is difficult to tell the story of such a long period of time in a meaningful way in 2 hours or less.
Most of the movie takes place when he meets the woman who will become his wife. He tells her of how he became involved in the political battle. The movie follows along to eventual victory. The time shifts mean you have to pay close attention since Wilburforce doesn’t seem to change much physically. John Newton, played well by Albert Finney, and the troublesome Clarkson do undergo some physical changes providing clues if you miss the message.
"I am a great sinner. Christ is a great Savior."
The movie clearly portrays his evangelical moorings, but doesn’t dwell on them in a way that would make a non-Christian too uncomfortable. I particularly liked the quick scene with his butler. Wilberforce explains some strange behavior on God. “You’ve found God.” “More like I’ve been found by God.” I’m not sure about the exact wording, but it reflects the wording of his mentor’s song- “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” But the movie does not cover his conversion- which was a fairly lengthy process so that is understandable- or that his faith was the impetus and sustaining force in the fight against the slave trade.
One disappointment was the scene in which his best friend died. His friend lamented that he didn’t have William’s faith. Wilburforce left it at that rather than offering the promises of the gospel to him.
The movie makes some quick mention of some of his other accomplishments, such as found the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This too flowed out of his faith. He saw Christianity as not less, but more than his personal conversion. His understanding of Christianity was that God transforms us, and society through us. Wilburforce was so active in living out this vision that his health did suffer greatly.
... no longer belong to God, but belong to man...
The film does a good job of telling people about part of this great man’s life. It is a fairly low budget film. That it is a period piece helps it to feel like something you might see as a mini-series on PBS. But I wasn’t looking for style points.
It is sad that most people don’t know about this man, and his lengthy struggle to see the slave trade come to an end, and soon thereafter slavery itself.
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