Character Analysis in Selma (A Movie about Martin Luther King Jr)
Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma is the latest movie capturing a period of Martin Luther King Jr’s life (the period of worst violent acts by US against black people) in which he, as always, attempts to bring black people what is their right. It starts with King himself preparing his speech for the ceremony in which he is about to accept his Nobel Prize, and ends in King’s most famous speech on the stairs of the State Capitol about his dream. Selma is a historical movie, but the fact that its theme feels like a very current issue, sadly reminds us that racism is still alive in our country.
The movie has portrayed King’s character perfectly. In the first scene where he is practicing the speech and getting ready for the ceremony, he is worried that using big intellectual words “ain’t right”, so he decides to use simple speech instead. Later, he is not comfortable with having to wear an ascot tie because he thinks it might upset his friends who might think he is living luxuriously. As all of us have of course studied about King’s life and character, this is a precise portrayal.
After Annie Lee Cooper (portrayed by Oprah Winfrey) is denied the right to vote just because of the color of her skin, King decides to arrange a march from the city of Selma to the courthouse in Montgomery in order to tell the world and especially the authorities that voting is a right for everybody regardless of what race they are from. The fact that lots of people start following him in the march, shows the powerful leadership and charisma in his character; which are explicitly portrayed in the movie, by actor David Oyelowo. King’s insistence on helping people even with the opposition of the president is visible in the dialogue below:
King: “Mr. President, in the South, there have been thousands of racially motivated murders. We need your help!”
The President: “Dr. King, this thing is just going to have to wait.”
King: “It cannot wait! People are dying.”
The President: “You got one big issue. I got a hundred and one.”
Selma is not similar to simple historical movies which only look at the events flatly and objectively. This movie looks at the characters – and especially King himself – psychologically and shows the viewer how exactly he feels in every scene. It moves so close to the characters that it is like the viewer is able to read the minds of King’s followers and see exactly why they are following him. What happens on the “bloody Sunday” is realistically and horrifyingly portrayed in the novel which shocks the viewer, and the way the marchers and especially King himself, seem brave enough to not care about the dangers, is fascinating.
According to Mike McGranaghan in an article about the movie, the film does not end with King’s death, because it is not a movie about how people were sent out of the picture due to their race, but it is a movie about people who “took pride” in their race and rose up to speak for themselves and for the people of their kind. In one scene, King says: “It is unacceptable that they use their power to keep us voiceless. As long as I am unable to use my constitutional right to vote, I do not have command of my own life. I cannot determine my own destiny. For it is determined for me by people who would rather see me suffer than succeed. Those that have gone before us say, ‘no more! No more!’ That means protest. That means March. That means disturb the peace. That means jail. That means risk. And that is hard. We will not wait any longer. Give us the vote. We’re not asking. We’re demanding. Give us the vote!”
Gleibermn, Owen. "Selma Review: The Year's First Five-star Film." BBC Culture. 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150109-the-years-most-important-film>.
McGranaghan, Mike. "The Aisle Seat - Selma." The Aisle Seat - Selma. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://aisleseat.com/selma.htm>.
"Selma Movie Quotes." Ranker. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ranker.com/list/selma-movie-quotes/movie-and-tv-quotes>.