I watched Beloved today. This is a story I've had a difficult time with from the get-go. I read the book, but somehow it never grabbed me. I've tried watching the movie several times, but always gave up about 1/3 of the way into it. Today I determined that I would sit here and watch the whole thing.
I'm glad I did because it is a good movie. Oprah Winfrey is, I think, an underrated actress. She gives an excellent performance as Sethe.
However, as good as it was, I couldn't help thinking that my problem with it all along is a cultural one. I suspect that there are many elements of this film that a white person growing up on the West Coast during the Civil Rights era can't possibly hope to understand on the same level as an African American audience can. It doesn't take away anything from the movie itself, but I just think that my problem with it in the past was that I don't come from that cultural background and can't feel on a gut level the kinds of feelings that are expressed. I could follow the story. I could feel empathy. I could feel the pain of those involved, but I couldn't get in there and inhabit the minds and souls of those involved.
It's much the same way I felt (on a much smaller scale) returning to the U.S. from Scotland two weeks after 9/11, when the entire country had gone through the emotional trauma of 24/7 coverage of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, and the pain of those who survived, those who had lost loved ones, those who dug through the rubble hoping to find survivors. I didn't get that TV feed in Scotland and so when we returned, there was an emotional disconnect. I could feel the shock, the horror, the pain on an intellectual level, but at the real gut level, where the rest of the country felt it, it just wasn't there.
However, Beloved is a good film. Rent it.