Recently, one of my students at my English conversation school 英会話, Smith’s School of English, Kawanishi スミス英会話川西校, mentioned to me that the movie Invictus had been released in Japan, and that she was keen to see it. She told me about this because I was born and brought up in South Africa, and Invictus is the story about a very significant moment in the recent history of that country.
I had heard and seen several reviews of Invictus, and because I found the accents of Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, the two lead actors, a little unconvincing, I had doubted whether I wanted to see it. Invictus deals with the period in time from the release,in 1990, of Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa, to that country’s victory as hosts of the 1995 Rugby World Cup. By 1995, the year of the competition, Mandela was president of South Africa, but the country was sharply divided between the whites who had supported the previous government, and the largely black supporters of the new democratic government. The South Africans were very much underdogs in the tournament, with the New Zealand All Black team the firm favourites. The tournament, and the victory by the Springboks (the name of the South African Team) brought together the two sides of the population in a national celebration as it seems no other event could have.
The holiday in Japan on February 11th coincided with the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison on Robben Island (that means seal island in the Dutch of the early South African settlers), and this event was very much in the news. So my wife, めぐみ and I decided to go to the Toho multiplex at Nishinomiya Gardens to see Invictus. What a pleasant surprise. The movie was made and acted with such brilliance that I forgot about the accents, and even the looks of the performers within seconds. I was transported to the South Africa of the 1990s and enjoyed every minute. I was so moved by the protrayal of events that I knew that I was almost in tears, and I wanted to cheer the Springboks on during the final of the competition. I saw many places that I knew well, even where I remembered having walked with my family.
Invictus reminded me that I should always go to see movies directed by Clint Eastwood; they are almost always works of near perfection. It is quite amazing to think that he is 79 years old and still such a masterful film maker.
Since seeing this movie, I have used it as a subject to discuss with my students, and also as a springboard for chat about my old home country, which we have found interesting and enjoyable.