November 29, 2012
Steven Spielberg's recently released film "Lincoln" did a good job at showing more than one dimension to Abraham Lincoln, according to experts at the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College. The center's co-directors, Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson, viewed the film Wednesday in Galesburg. Wilson also saw a pre-release screening in Chicago last week, and he and the Lincoln Studies Center are acknowledged in the credits.
According to Wilson, the film succeeds in portraying Lincoln both as a clever politician and as a thoughtful strategist who carefully planned his actions. "I was a very minor consultant," Wilson said. "In 2006, I was invited along with other Lincoln scholars, to meet with the writers in New York prior to production. We talked with them about Lincoln, but it's not as though we helped them write the film."
The film focuses on the struggle to ratify the 13th Amendment, which prohibited slavery.
The film shows Lincoln in several contexts, Wilson said. "You see Lincoln as a father and his relationships with his sons. The film does a good job of showing the tension with Mary Lincoln, who's not in favor of emancipation. There are glimpses of her instability, and you see that Lincoln is understanding" of his wife's problems.
Davis and Wilson praised the actor who portrays Lincoln. "Daniel Day-Lewis is fantastic," Wilson said.
Wilson is the author of award-winning books about Lincoln including "Honor's Voice" and "Lincoln's Sword," both of which won the Abraham Lincoln Prize. Wilson and Davis have co-edited widely acclaimed reference books on Lincoln, including "Herndon's Informants" and "The Lincoln Studies Center Edition of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates."
Davis and Wilson have consulted on numerous films and television programs on Lincoln, from historical documentaries to this year's fantasy-horror film "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter."