Tolerance, Nationalism and Symbolic Efficiency: The Film Invictus

Categories: Invictus

Modern society is interdependent, however, conflicting, as modern beliefs and views can be generally hypocritical, unjust, and intolerant. In today’s society, the modern living standard and norms require people to respect each other despite their different cultures, language, nationality, religion, wealth, career choice, and any other value and belief differences. The quote, Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you - Timothy Keller describes the meaning of tolerance as being accepting of others' thoughts without disregarding ones’ own opinion.

In the modern world, there is an abundance of examples of intolerance however, there are representations of tolerance such as the movie, Invictus, and the Atlanta Compromise Speech 1895 presented by Booker T. Washington. In this essay, we will discuss the techniques used in these texts and their relation to the above quote.

Invictus is an astounding example of tolerance as it shows Nelson Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, who, despite being wrongfully imprisoned for twenty-seven years, displays an unorthodox acceptance of those who imprisoned him and works tirelessly to unite and breakdown the barriers between the countries black and white peoples left after the Apartheid.

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The film reinforces this division in its establishing shot by utilizing a panning long shot which is used to show the contrasts between the treatment of the countries white and the black citizens’. On one side you have ragged black kids playing on a dirt patch cheering after Mandela, whereas on the other, you have immaculate white men playing on a neatly tended grass pitch, further flaunting the differences between the countries races.

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The film accounts for the riveting and unlikely relationship between the black President Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and the white Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), captain of the South African Rugby team, the Springboks. Eastwood demonstrates Pienaar as a prominent leader in the South African Springbok football team. He is made out to be responsible for ‘[his] team’s’ dismal performance when they lose a match early in the film. Tight, close-up framing shows the audience a defeated Pienaar, a captain, and leader who has brought ‘shame upon’ the South African nation, and as the rugby president suggests, deserves to ‘get the axe’. The harsh, low-key lighting of the frame draws in on the raked and bruised Pienaar, who is isolated as the key to the Boks having ‘their tails between their legs’ throughout the game. Pienaar is contrasted against Mandela who has just been released from the incarceration of twenty-seven years in 1990. The film portrays Mandela’s journey to be recognized as a successful president uniting his divided people.

Invictus is a sententious text which is executed with pristine camera techniques that convey the emotions necessary to the audience. Clint Eastwood depicts a post-Apartheid South Africa through an ingenious visualization using characters' emotions and behaviors, as well as, by the formation of the cinematic techniques. When re-creating realistic sports matches in films it is often difficult as the intensity and speed of which professional athletes perform can rarely be successfully mimicked. A cinematic technique used is; when the wider rugby games angles are used you can clearly see the lack of pace, whereas, the use of handheld, ground-level camera angles for low, close-up shots makes you feel part of the chaotic action of the rucks and scrums. With a text such as Invictus, there is the added challenge of writing such an evocative and emotional pejorative text is that its composition through these film techniques should be integrated as textual evidence in a cohesive and effective way. In this film, we can clearly see the divided community in which the narrative is set; involving the rift between Afrikaners and black South Africans.

An example of this is when the black bodyguard leader (Jason) and his team met the new [white] bodyguards. There is extreme hostility displayed between the two races, which is reinforced with sophisticated camera techniques. Eastwood utilizes tight, close-up framing in this scene as to allude to the confrontation between black and white South Africans. By this, the director draws us into the agitated, bemused expressions on Jason and Linga, who immediately clash with the new South African Secret Service (SASS) bodyguards they must partner with. Jason stresses the personal bond between his team and the President – ‘[Madiba] that’s what we call him’. This immediately establishes the distaste that the black South Africans have towards their ‘enemies’, the Afrikaners. Mandela implores that ‘reconciliation starts here’ and ‘forgiveness starts here’; Mandela assembles this new team of bodyguards as they are his representatives and ambassadors. He wants the ‘rainbow nation’ to start here.

Another example of tolerance is displayed in the Atlanta Compromise Speech provided by Booker T. Washington in 1895 on the topic of racial union succeeding the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery. In this speech, it is exhibited by Washington, who was born a slave that later became an indispensable and irreplaceable presidential advisor, shows a perplexing tolerance rate in that shows the absolution of the importance of the acceptance of social segregation as the price for acquiring education and economic security and the equality and social support needed in order to live a peaceful existence. This was incredibly controversial at this time as in the South slavery was still occurring behind the law with a hostile coexistence. In this passage, To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Washington states that fear and hostilities between the two races in that time were monumental and created a great divide in both opportunities as well as coexistence. This can be related to the quote above as the Atlanta Compromise Speech's main essence prevailed to be that, maintaining no disdain within the beliefs of others does not mean there will be a disregard for one's beliefs, stature, nor rights.

The Atlanta Compromise is a perpetually groundbreaking speech on the subject of racial cooperation and urging the utmost importance of which they should act in ways that would enable the blacks and whites of the United States of America to coexist peacefully. Washington uses the appeal of logic to warn the audience of the power, whether they are aware of it or not, that the black race held in society. He does this to open the cultural floodgates to those who disregard and ignore the black populace and to force them to see that African Americans exist and they make up a significant portion of the population. Washington displays that this portion could either make or break the prospect of peace in America, depending on how well the races are willing to work together without letting racial prejudice intervene. Different literary techniques are what help empower this speech to be so impactful to its cause.

An example of this is the simile used to convey the message that it is not shameful to participate in manual labor and, that in fact fulfilling these positions is essential for the majority to succeed. Cast it down in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service, and in the professions. And in this connection, it is well to bear in mind that whatever other sins the South may be called to bear, when it comes to business, pure and simple, it is in the South that the Negro is given a man’s chance in the commercial world, and in nothing is this Exposition more eloquent than in emphasizing this chance. Following this simile Washington the African Americans that it is important they mustn’t hold grudges against the opposite race, lest they lose opportunities that would have otherwise been offered to them. This is an incredibly intelligent technique as the use of simile serves to emphasize the importance of tolerance and union whilst also making it logical and memorable to the audience.

In closing, Invictus showcased the incredibility of the leadership and tolerance level of Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar both in very different situations but faced with some of the same issues. Mandela was faced with bringing the nation together and Pienaar was faced with bringing the Springboks together, which was similar to a nation in its own right. This was so due to different races, conflicting ideas, and stubbornness to change their ways. Similarly, the Atlanta Compromise expands and broadens the prospect of tolerance despite adversity. Washington was amazingly brave as showing a reference on the topic of equality in such a controversial time as well as his bewildering ability and accomplishment to present this signifier of contentious and even unsafe topics in a non-threatening mode. Different ways these texts provide perspectives on ideas, issues, and themes and how comparing them can offer an enriched understanding of the ideas, issues, and themes. With today's ever-pressing issue of intolerance and unwillingness to accept one's differences, texts such as Invictus and the Atlanta Compromise Speech are imperative for the messages of a peaceful society to be accurately conveyed.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Tolerance, Nationalism and Symbolic Efficiency: The Film Invictus. (2020, Oct 17). Retrieved from

Tolerance, Nationalism and Symbolic Efficiency: The Film Invictus essay
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