Movie Review

Beloved

MPAA Rating: R for violent images, sexuality and nudity

Reviewed by: Trish Dick
CONTRIBUTOR
Edited by: Ken James

Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adult
Genre:
Drama
Length:
172 min.
R

Starring: Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Kimberly Elise, Beah Richards / Director: Jonathan Demme

“Beloved,” starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover, will surely be a film contending for Academy Awards. However, this intense portrayal of slavery is just too much for most people to handle and not recommended.

In fact, I felt sick when I left the movie theatre. This is, apparently, a true story and the human degredation and suffering is horrific. “Beloved” also portrays a very realisitic element in the spiritual sense, showing how the demonic world can have very real effects and consequences on the lives of humans.

This story depicts slavery in its cruelest and probably most realistic form. Sethe (Oprah Winfrey) manages to escape a life of slavery from a degrading slave master in Kentucky. She heads toward Ohio and toward freedom in the post-Civil War era. Having understood the horrors of slavery first hand, she fears that her children may be enslaved to a bitter similar fate. Unable to picture this destiny for her children, she kills one of them.

The soul of Sethe’s youngest daughter is at unrest after the killing and returns to earth in demonic form, first as a disruptive spirit and then as a disturbed woman, “Beloved”. Sethe, her lover Paul D (Danny Glover) and teenage daughter Denver (Kimberly Elise) do not want to see the demonic occurances. They choose instead (because of their own guilt and desires) to allow Beloved to seduce them, each according to their desire. The women of the village, however, understand that this is a spiritual battle and do their best to remove this demon from their lives.

This movie is not at all uplifting or encouraging. While “Beloved” espouses truth in many ways (slavery, the dark spiritual world, a mother’s love for her family, the dignity of black people as they struggled for freedom, etc.) it could open dark doors that should remain closed. In “Beloved”, Sethe is set free from her past by speaking and confessing the truth. Her two daughters are also set free—one from disillusionment and one from a brutal murder. Graphic nudity, sexual content, and violence are abundant (slave owners sucking on a pregnant Sethe’s breasts, female genital nudity, frontal female nudity, male rear nudity, bedroom scenes, whippings, hanging, etc.). While there is no obscene language, there are about a dozen instances of profanity. While “Beloved” may have been realistic and was certainly an epic performance, the message could have been portrayed effectively without the overabundance of objectionable content. Disappointing and not recommended.

Year of Release—1998

Viewer Comments
I thought the movies “Beloved” was a well made movie about the reality of slavery. Some many people pretend that slavery was at the least hard on the black community. But there are a number of problems with today’s society because of what happened then.

For example, how are the young black man respect woman who throughout our history in the united states have readily accepted the white man to get ahead and how can a young black man feel like a man when the woman he would defend will fall for the same white man who will put her to death for talking out of place.

“Beloved” at a minimum showed someone with the conviction to do what she believed in her heart to be better then the life that was diffinitely waiting for them. We who have no real idea of the strenght that it must have taken to kill the child you bore into this world. Paul D. played the same black male even after the civil war, who was unable to stand up to anything that may have been bigger than him. But here he comes when things are okay to make them better.

The inner strength that Sethe has and was portrayed by Oprah was moving to me and although I could not think of doing that to my son, I could feel for her and maybe imagine that life had to be more than her could bear. No one here today could even come close to understand why. But this movie showed some insight to it. I would recommend it to be seen by all but the faint of heart.
—Maurice K. Ray, age 34
I am an African-American woman and I disagree with some of my brothers and sisters regarding “Beloved”. This was a sorry, sad and hopeless movie. If Sethe knew Christ, she would not have killed her children. This is not mother love. It was animalistic.

Yes, slavery was horrible and a lot of ungodly things were done to blacks by ungodly men. But if we continue looking in the past, we can never have a future. Oprah needs to start identifying with the present and how she can better the lives of others. Not looking to her dead ancestors for the answers. And we who are Christians were slaves to sin, no matter what color we are.

“The Color Purple” was done in taste. Celie gave up her children rather then kill them. And they came back to her in grand style. Beloved was dark, demonic, hateful and a waste of my time and money.
—Lee Rogers
I retitle this movied “BELABORED”…now, don’t get me wrong… I happen to be a white male and I believe it is SO important to address the subject of racism in any way it can be depicted truthfully. Some movies will focus on the racism of the past (be it slavery, the Holocaust, etc.) and some may focus on current issues of race relations.

The problem I had with Beloved it that it wallowed SO much in the horrific aspects (again, necessary to some extent but overkill here) that I didn’t care about the characters as PEOPLE as much as I needed to. In a movie where a strong message is prevalent, they need to make us as viewers see the characters as more than just people who went go through events, but to CARE about them going through these events… personally, I think they needed a few less intensely violent scenes, and a few more uplifting ones such as the all-too rare scene where they go to the carnival as a family.

By their wallowing in the darkness so much, I found myself getting annoyed with the film due to violence/harshness overload. I think “Amistad” presented the issue much better and showed the brutality without bashing the audience over the head.

And at 3 hours, I honestly would say it was not worth the investment of time for what I got out of it… also the story was quite disjointed and the supenatural elements just felt thrown in for effect without really being dealt with head on… nevertheless, we do need movies that deal with the struggle of all the black men and women in our country, both present and past, and if we are to understand one another better as people, movies like Amistad and Beloved at least hopefully open up doors for further discussions and better understanding of what our fellow brothers and sisters went through and are still going through.

Reconciliation is something God calls us to, and it’s good to see films offering up subject matter to add fuel to the discussion…
—Carl Adams Jr., age 26
I went to Beloved expecting a difficult and heartwrenching movie (possibly like Schindler’s List). I did not expect the pervading sense of confusion and disorientation brought on by the flash backs or the very real sense of evil in the theater. Slavery was horrific and is a very real part of our countries past but I was more appalled at the demonic powers that seemed to be unleashed on the screen. Before I became discriminatory in my viewing habits, I saw many thrillers.

This was much more disturbing in many ways. We lasted about 30 minutes before leaving the theater. After voicing our disgust about the content of Beloved, the theater management was kind enough to give us rain checks for a different time. I would NOT recommend this movie to ANYONE!
—Kristen I., age 30
It is hard for me to say that I enjoyed the movie Beloved. On a certain level, I did, however; it is more descriptive to say that I appreciated what the movie was trying to say. It is a horrific movie about a horrific period in the history of this country. Many times, we see movies about slavery that show the nobility of the people enslaved.

They survived in spite of terrible human conditions. They strove to retain their dignity, their humanity, even as others denied it. That made them heroic and we could admire them. Beloved is based on a true incident that happened during that time. An escaped slave, a mother, when confronted with the possibility that her children would have to go back and live the life of a slave, did what we now feel is the unthinkable. She took her children’s lives… It was painful watching Beloved, because the life of the main character, Sethe, was explicitly painful.

She survived. But the experience drove her crazy. She was forever wounded and broken by the abuse of the experience of slavery. The terrible legacy literally haunted her and her surviving children. Abuse can frequently be the door that lays a person open to the seduction of the demonic. Sethe, out of her guilt. Denver, out of her isolation. Paul D, who at first resists and fights against it, is later seduced by Beloved. Finally, it is the church women of Sethe’s community, that come, armed with their faith in God, to pray to God for the release of this family.

Perhaps, if this were a Christian story, we would see the redemption of the characters in clearly spiritual terms. But this is not a movie based on a “Frank Peretti” story about the supernatural realm of angels and demons. Do I think Christians shouldn’t see this movie? No. No more than I thought Christians shouldn’t see “Saving Private Ryan.” Both are graphic, horrific movies about graphic and horrific times. And it well may represent the experiences of many who lived through that period in time. Are we, as Christians, harmed by this knowledge?

I do not think that was Toni Morrison’s intent, when she wrote the book. But we may be changed by it. All change is not bad. There is an old African-American song that laments, “Oh Freedom, oh freedom over me. Before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord to be free.” After viewing Beloved, I better understand the sentiments of that song.
—Harriet E. Jackson
It would be impossible to say that I “enjoyed” this movie, but I am glad that I went to see it. I do agree with the reviewer that many scenes were appalling, but I disagree with the comment that this should have been handled differently. To me, that sounds like a cry for personal comfort at the expense of truth (a danger for all of us).

Indeed, I did not find the violence so horrifying as I did the portrayals of human degradation. One thing that may escape many is that this is a story about african-americans. Unlike so many films dealing with slavery in which blacks are displayed as set-pieces throwing white history into sharp relief, this is not about “what the white people did” or “how blacks rose above their circumstances.”

This was instead, a story about the wreckage of experience from a unique historical perspective. It indicated to me that for every one person who “rose above” slavery, there must have been many who were all but destroyed. Sethe, Paul D., and Denver are all reminders to us that what happens matters; and that it can’t all be nullified by a good cry and reading through James Dobson’s latest book.

A healing may take place, but the scars remain. And that healing is the result of direct intervention by the Holy Spirit, not from the latest self-gratifying nonsense, so much of which is produced by our own contemporary Christian culture.
—Douglas Sirman, age 33
I am very appalled at the review you have given Beloved; I must say I would not recommend this movie for children under the age of 18; however it is a clear depiction of what Blacks in this country have endured. In the review the writer said this movie has opened doors that are to be kept closed, and that is exactly what the problem is, the people who are the majority in this country have not acknowledged these struggles and otrocities that have been committed against not only blacks; but all minorities.

The movie brings to light the struggles that a blackwoman has endured; the story is true and christians especially if we are to understand why blacks are the way they are, we need to see representations of these struggles. True reconciliation can take place when we understand and acknowledge the wrong perpetrated by sad to say the then white America. We are not taught about the gore and truth of Slavery in school so this is an ideal way to see what took place in the past so that we can correct the future.

This a a true representation of what actually happened, and it might not be what is considered tasteful or family friendly but it happened, White America subjected a Black woman to the events in “Beloved.”

I do not condone what Sethe did, but to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, in this case Sethe freed her children from the slavery she endured. Christians; it is time to get out of the comfort zone of our padded pews and face a real problem that haunts every one especially the church. Thank God Oprah had enough guts to make sure that this is one door that was opened. I hate to sound harsh but the truth must be told; Beloved told the truth.
—Althea Bryan, age 25
I feel that the contents of this movie are too real for some people. Truly the depiction of the situations were graphic and violent, but they were real. Not to anyone one of us, but to my ancestors and the ancestors of other African Americans. We often look at the surface of things (something that is easy to find) as opposed to looking for a deeper meaning. That would be too much work!
—Kia
This film was mind blowing. The best part to me was the end when the women prayed in the Spirit and cast the demon out of Sethe’s life. I have one problem with this review, however. I understand the reviewer being offended by the content of this film but this is slavery.

As an African-American man I am no stranger to the horrors of slavery. I, for one, am glad that the horrors of Sethe’s life were not sugar-coated on screen. Those vicious acts were Sethe’s motivation to do what she did-to protect her children. Christian or not, like it or not, that was reality. Hardly any complaints were made about the reality of war in Saving Private Ryan but the reality of slavery in this film is causing much complaints. Sounds rather hypocritical to me.
—Chris Utley, age 26
I think I was expecting a newer “Color Purple,” and indeed I got it, with all the lastest shock-value visuals fully inserted! Granted, it is not a pretty subject, and there were many truths to be learned, but this was not the way to handle it in my opinion. I left the theatre wishing I had not seen some of the images I did see. I had the chilling feeling of demonic presence in an unknowing audience. The church ladies renouncing of the demon, and its disappearance alone kept me from being completely disillusioned. I don’t recommend this in spite of the fact that it may be considered academy award fodder. BEWARE of “Beloved”!
—Lynn Lowe, age 54
Have no idea what the plot was for this movie. We lasted about 45 minutes through a preview screening of the film. The film opens with a dog being thrown around a room by an apparent ghost. Within 15 minutes we were subjected to blood, guts, God’s name taken in vane numerous times, a rape, the hanging, beating, and deaths of several people. We then got up and walked out. We do not recommend this movie to any age or any Christian based on our experience. We were very offended by this movie.
—Sid and Brenda Owens, age 52