Most of us have heard the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. The story behind the song is quite an extraordinary one. We are reminded that it takes time to change the world. The movie captures in a most marvelous way the triumph of human spirit over centuries old mindless mindsets. It is a heart rending tale of extraordinary courage, resilience of one person fighting the system and changing the customs of his times. Wilberforce fights the system in his backdoor politics to end slavery for good. It is the victory of one man’s resolve and perseverance.
The initial scene when a horse is being flogged mercilessly sets the pace for the movie by presenting to us the injustices of the times of Wilberforce. This scene not only tells of cruelty towards animals but the state of insensitivity of the society at large. The message conveyed is extrapolated to slave trade by showing the horse as being fully black.
The movie portrays the helplessness, fragility, insecurity and torment in the African slave’s eyes and the callousness of the ruling class of Britain. They were selfish enough to care for no one else but themselves. Then there is this sailor of a slave ship who undergoes a transformation and starts seeing the world with Christ’s grace.
A scene that leaves a lasting impact on me is the climax of the movie where the Parliament of Britain finally passes the Slavery Abolition Act by an overwhelming majority, and Wilberforce is honored by his former adversaries and is seen grappling with the gravity of his emotions as he sees his beloved’s face. The Scottish bagpipers’ marching; and their playing of the song “Amazing Grace” is the icing on the cake. The moment leaves one in a trance!
I have also come to know and appreciate Wilberforce’s immense humanitarian interests apart from him being an abolitionist. Wilberforce was profoundly influenced by Christianity and this provided a great motivation for his work. He initially was caught up in a personal dilemma in choosing between faith and politics. One scene in the movie shows how Wilberforce found his answer….”Perhaps you can do both”. Another facet of Wilberforce was his love for animals and his intent on preserving their rights and thus he pioneered efforts in the creation of the Society for Prevention of cruelty towards animals.
As much about him cannot be captured as is in the Westminister Abbey’s plaque:
“He added the abiding eloquence of the Christian life.
Eminent as he was in every department of public labour
And a leader in every work of charity.”
What astonishes me is the fact that a great soul who transformed the fate of an entire generation and later is relatively unknown. He goes about as an unsung, and now mostly forgotten hero of human rights.
The movie is replete with references to the power of the Christian faith. One compelling faith affirmation in the movie is: “I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.” The movie depicts the commitment of Wilberforce to his cause and how the Lord had purposely chosen to capture his heart before He moved him into his calling.