Lincoln (the movie) and the Value of Talismanic Personalities

Review copyright 2012 by Jonathan Zap

Everyone whose soul is not completely eaten away by cynicism should see this superb film. First, a few sentences of conventional movie review: An inspired and inspiring performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and a great supporting cast. Attention to period detail and authenticity that incarnates the gritty world of 1865 America so well, that at times you feel you can smell the damp wool, cedar planks, fountain pen ink, Kentucky bourbon and muddy streets filled with horse manure. Spielberg got permission from the Kentucky Historic Society to record the ticking of Lincoln’s actual pocket watch, so that when you hear Lincoln pensively listening to the sound of his watch, you are hearing the same sound that Lincoln heard. The choice of Tony Kushner to write the screenplay shows a commitment to create a soulful experience—a commitment that this inspired collaboration of talented people fulfills.

Besides its success on every level of cinema, this film also succeeds in the conjuration, the incarnation, of what I call a “talismanic personality.” A talismanic personality is one that is numinous and inspiring, an exemplar of wholeness that reminds us of what Lincoln called the “better angels” of human nature. In the presence of a talismanic personality all that is superficially glamorous is revealed as the shoddy, mediocre product of false personality and inflated ego.

The photographs of Lincoln’s face reveal to anyone with an ounce of intuition that he is an old soul’s old soul, an embodiment of seriousness of purpose, moral gravitas, and the visionary intelligence to see through to the heart of a matter. The portrait of Lincoln in the movie is not a hagiographical idealization, but rather a and authentic grandeur. As portrayed in the movie, Lincoln personifies and dramatizes the principle that the alchemists endeavored to live by—to do every action, large or small, as if the fate of the whole universe depended on it. The big screen has brought us so many antiheros, false personalities, and morally ambiguous men of action; Lincoln is a rare chance to see the magic of cinema incarnating a fully realized, noble personality from our mythic past.




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  1. Thank you Jon for commenting upon a film that has impressed you so. This is noteworthy to me for three reasons offhand i) I am ongoingly disturbed and frustrated by my attempts to navigate the brainwashing machine known as the film industry, and my awareness that a high percentage of popular films damage the energy body – viewer beware! It is encouraging to know that a film, not least a Spielberg film, offers a rich fully realised character portrait of a mortal flesh and blood human being
    Ii) stupid iPad. Being in Australia Lincoln as a historical figure has not held A great deal of relevance or notoriety, but while I personally can acknowledge the potency of his character, my lack of knowledge about the situation led me to believe he had been raised to deified mythic proportions by the famous US revisionist history brainwashing machine, when in fact he abolished slavery simply because the North wasn’t making money from it! While admittedly I didn’t have a strong stance one way or the other, Jon you have showed me not to forge assumptions so easily
    Iii) bit hard to articulate but along the lines of how much i appreciate sharing experiences of ART, which is truth and beauty, as opposed to entertainment, which is most films. And that art is humanity and divinity revealed – not intellectual posturing. Lincoln the film seems to make the grade. Even if he was a High degree Freemason hahaha aha a hahaha haha. Thanks for sharing & for reading.

  2. Then again, the film could be a highly successful attempt to render an fully formed lifelike human portrait of an realised, mythic and fictional figure. Produced and directed by our favourite card carrying zionist, overlord of Hollywood the spell casting myth weaving magic Druid machine! Lots love to you all…

  3. I said realised mythic figure , I meant idealised myth figure. Mr Lewis seems excellent for the role by the way. Superbly suitable. Check out There Will Be Blood. Daniel Day Lewis plays an oil tycoon at the turn of the century. A wonderfully eccentric, chilling, and provocative film with an unusual aesthetic.

  4. After reading your review, I went to see Lincoln, and was very moved. It seems to me that Lincoln, as he was portrayed in Spielberg’s movie by Daniel Day-Lewis, is a potent exemplar of the dynamic paradoxicalist, someone who at times can live frustratingly long in swamps of seemingly fruitless ambiguity, but who – when history is on the line – can also act with highly effective talismanic power that ignores boundaries made for less numinous and more rational circumstances. I’ve probably listened to your podcast on Dynamic Paradoxicalism over half-a-dozen times, not unlike a man who has heard a particular sermon repeatedly, and it was a real treat to have that meta-philosophy as a framework from which to receive and interpret (yin and yang) Lincoln as a man, and the USA as a nation-state. After the movie, I drove to a coffee shop, intent on sending a Lincoln-themed email to colleagues of mine who work in the business of journalism in the drug-infested world of track and field. As I went to pay for a coffee, I pulled out a five dollar bill with Lincoln’s face on it. As I sat down to write, I realized that the car that drove me from movieplex to cafe was a Lincoln. Strange and potent threads – thanks for your laser-focused attention to their weavings.

    Since I know you’re a bit of a quote hoarder, here’s the one I decided to keep from the movie. “We’ve made it possible for one another to do terrible things.”
    – Ulysses S Grant to Abraham Lincoln in the movie Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg (ps: I’m only 95% confident in the quote’s accuracy)

  5. there’s an appreciation , internationally, that a lot of people in the US (not mutants eg Friends of The Zap Oracle of course) are brainwashed by revisionist history eg a belief that certain ex-presidents were outstanding and virtuous when in fact they indulged in promoting all kinds of nefarious agendas personally/professionally/internationally. And certain fictions are propogated to support said saintly eg the George Washington with the apple tree saga. Well I always suspected something was fishy about Lincoln, and while I never bothered to extend my understanding beyond ‘it wasn’t all about freeing slaves’ I just found a readers review about the aforementioned movie :
    “…Worse, it’s hagiography, glossing over Lincoln’s overt support for slavery right up to the moment France (and other European powers) were about to give material support to the Confederacy in the Civil War and he saw a chance to embarrass them out of it by pretending the war was about freeing the slaves. Even then he couldn’t resist saying “All men were created equal . . .” did not include negroes. The battle for the 13th amendment was about keeping the Radicals from leaving the Republican Party.” I can’t remember if I wrote this previously, but I just read an excellent article explaining how Lincoln saw that for the US of A to truely thrive it needed to have its own interest free currency independent from the banks, and he created this currency, calling it greenbacks. This was the reason he was assassinated. The currency didn’t remain. JFK and a previous (assassinated) president saw the same problem and sought the same solution.