“Invictus”, directed by the renowned Clint Eastwood, was released in 2009. It was adapted from John Carlin’s book (“Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation”), stars Matt Damon (François Pienaar) and Morgan Freeman (Nelson Mandela). The most relevant historical theme portrayed is the dismantling of the apartheid in South Africa, through the 1995 Rugby World Cup. However, it is not this review’s main objective to discuss/verify the historical facts behind this narrative, but to render a reflection of the concepts evoked.
This masterpiece’s title and plot, between many other things, allude to the Victorian poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. On this poem and likewise on the movie, our resilience and ability of self-determination, despite our nature as beings of chance and circumstance, is extolled. It is from this central idea that all the other concepts flourish, namely inspiration, leadership, forgiveness, altruism… For instances, at some point of the narrative, the questions “But how to get them to be better than they think they can be?” and “How do we inspire ourselves to greatness when nothing less will do?” are posed on a talk on philosophy of leadership, between Mandela and the captain of the Springboks (South Africa’s national rugby team). The answers were, respectively: “Inspiration…” and “… using the work of others”. That is, we perceive the existence of a cycle of inspiration which identifies example as the best tool in leadership. Such idea is also brought up on the line of François Pienaar “We’ve become more than just a rugby team”. Our ability to transcend ourselves as individuals and nurture, is one of the most fascinating mysteries in the entire history of humankind. On this same matter, Clint Eastwood’s creation also provides us, through the sports reporter TV programme, the ability to reflect on the impact of media on our society.
Through many other small, yet brilliant, details, this movie attains its status of masterpiece. Though reluctant to watch it initially, I can now say that it is a must watch.
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,1875