The story begins in the midst of the abolition of slavery in America. The northern states have already conformed to this new ideology, but the southern states and their heavy reliability of climate dependent crops and year round labor makes slavery more of a “necessity”. The increased demand of cheap labor but fewer supply made slaves hard to come by, and more of a sought after commodity.
A black market of slavery arose and a free man by the name of Solomon, a well educated violinist, was sold into it after a betrayal by a duo of new acquaintances. Solomon endured being a slave for 12 years and was sold or traded between different owners like livestock. The whipping and other abusive scene were unapologetic, but this violence is overshadowed by the psychological manipulation which is apparent throughout. Solomon gradually succumbs to his situation while also inheriting the true anguish of his companions; which initially he rejected as nothing but empty sorrow.
The film was so much more than a tale of slavery, it placed you inside the humid reeds of the deep south and made you work through the unforgiving sun. Panning scenes showcased the swamps of the bayou, with trees engulfed in dangling Spanish moss against the warm backdrop of the blood-red setting sun. The attention to detail was profound and in tune with the atmosphere. Half way through the film the ability to tell the time of day by the sound of insects alone became undeniable.