I recently saw the movie “Invictus” again on cable and it made me think about writing this. “Invictus” was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. It is about Nelson Mandela, played by Freeman and Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African Rugby Team, played by Damon, and how they came together to unite South Africa after the end of Apartheid.
Apartheid was a very dark chapter in world history, in which the white minority in South Africa enacted a legal policy of racial separation in South Africa, from the black majority. I don’t want to get into a political discussion here now, and won’t pretend to fully understand this event in history. Needless to say, in was a very demeaning and tense time to millions of people in that country!
Anyway, the movie “Invictus” tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island prison after 27 years! As the newly elected president of South Africa, Mandela was striving to unite the country’s citizens, both the black majority and white minority. He reached out to the captain of the Springbok Rugby Team, Francois Pienaar. South Africa was scheduled to host the 1995 Rugby World Cub. The film depicts Mandela’s and Pienaar’s efforts at trying to bring an appreciation of rugby to the black majority, without alienating the white citizens. It also depicts their attempts to try and unite the country together behind their one national team.
The title of the film “Invictus” refers to a poem that was written by William Ernest Henley while in the hospital, and published in 1888. “Invictus” is a Latin word for “unconquered” or “undefeated“. The poem is referenced in the film by Nelson Mandela who said reciting it over and over again while in prison was a source of strength and inspiration for him!
“Invictus” – William Ernest Henley
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.
The film “Invictus” may not have necessarily been a commercial success in theaters. However, often times, films that are inspirational and tell stories that aren’t packed with explosions, sex, violence or gratuitous language often fall under the radar. However, I’d highly recommend you check out this movie! Try and understand the underlying themes of this movie and the larger implications it invokes. To me, this film was very similar to a movie I referenced in another post, “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team. That event, though just a hockey game, and not even the gold medal match, united our country and gave us back a sense of confidence in ourselves, made us feel good again, and united our citizens behind something we could all get behind. Isn’t that what sports should be about? Isn’t that why sports films often appeal to viewers, whether actually sports fans or not? Because we can appreciate the emotions they stir in us? They encourage us to root for underdogs, to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens despite our differences, and to believe for a couple of hours that anything is truly possible? That when the odds are overwhelmingly against us, and all the “experts” say we don’t have a chance in hell of succeeding, that we can still pull off an upset and stand up as champions at the end!!!
Do yourself a favor. If you’re looking to feel inspired, and if you’re looking to understand a memorable time in history, I’d highly recommend you check out this movie! It’s out on cable as well as being available on DVD. Even though I don’t understand the game of rugby, I still found myself wanting to cheer for this team!!!