Twelve Years a Slave

Book vs. Movie

Twelve Years a Slave (book)   12 Years a Slave (movie)

I am really glad that I read the book and watched the film.  For the most part, the movie does a good job staying as close as possible to the events that are recalled in the memoir but there are certain things that were not shown on screen.  In the book, Solomon mentions that he caught small-pox, which was a battle he didn’t know he would win.  He also relates his acquaintance with the different Native American tribes that he would sometimes spend time with near his plantation.  The film does not portray any scenes of the slaves enjoying Christmas, which is one of the things Solomon makes a point to highlight in his book.  The DVD does not go into an additional scene, where Solomon actually had another episode with his master and an axe.  It does not show that he had tried escaping several times: once swimming through a river to throw the dogs off his scent, nor the time when he was doing extra work in the Gulf of Mexico and had tried to smuggle himself on a steamer there.  We do not know by just watching the movie that he was a driver for 8 years (whipping other slaves when necessary).  What I appreciated about his memoir is the detail of explaining the different work that was done on the plantations—whether it be with sugar cane, cotton or lumber work; the process or seasons of the crops and harvesting them.  We even learn from the book that Solomon was skilled at catching possums and fish.  When scenes from the book were shown on the DVD, there were some discrepancies at times.  In the film, Solomon’s punishment after beating his master is a bit different and Patsey’s flogging is less harsh than reality—if you can believe it!  When Solomon finally meets Mr. Bass (played by Brad Pitt), there is a longer and complicated interaction between them than what we see in the movie.  All in all, though, I respected both versions of a free man’s life that was unfairly transformed because of his skin color.  Solomon’s writing is worth reading—the Hollywood take on it was just a glimpse of what the poor man went through.

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