Despite their drastically different social contexts and setting, both David Malouf’s “Ransom” – a retelling of Homer’s Illiad and Clint Eastwood’s film “Invictus”- a depiction of president Mandela’s attempts to heal his apartheid unified South Africa. Both texts suggest the important of leaders as they serve as a symbol for their followers to look up to so they could gain a sense of assurance and courage. Moreover, Leaders in both texts are presented as having the moral courage to do the right thing, even when their decision might be unpopular and meet the resistance at the beginning. Apart from the importance of leadership, the two texts also explore the humanity embedded in the leaders.
Firstly, leaders are a physical presence that their subjects and followers can admire and look up to for a sense of belonging. Therefore, they serve as an example for others. In “Invictus,” the film presents a country inclined to fall into a cycle where one violent act begets another while Mandela leader his people to break the cycle to establish the notion of “rainbow nation” by forgiveness. At the beginning of the film, Eastwood adopts an archive footage in which Mandela tells his people to “take your knives and guns and your pangs and throw them into the sea,” a statement demonstrates of his determination to cease the long-standing hostility between the two races. His guidance of those around him further evidences his leadership skills in influencing others. The widespread enmity against the Afrikaners is embodies by the instance Mandela’s bodyguard Jason’s protesting against Mandela’s appointment of the white bodyguards who used to serve the de Klerk administration. Confronting Jason’s complaint “not long ago these guys tried to kill us”, referring to the rancor between the two races. Mandela’s reply appeals to humanity as well as the great good of the country, equating “forgiveness” as “a powerful weapon” that starts “a rainbow nation” through its power to “liberate the soul” and “removes fear”. The vicious cycle is also shared and delineated in the novel Ransom, in which the writer Malouf indicates that peace is only possible through forgiveness. This is shown by Achilles who is stuck in a stage of grief so profound that his friend Patroclus’ death.
Achilles kills Hector as a retribution for his friend Patroclus’s death. To allay his pained feelings, he takes out his hatred out on Hector’s body and “wait for the rage to fill him.” However, Malouf implies that revenge is not the answer to grief as Achilles feelings “nothing” while his “grief was not consumed,” alluding to the idea that rage cannot be allayed by revenging.The message is made clear in the symbolism that “the welts and gashes smoothly sealed and the torn flesh made whole again.” The funeral ritual he offers for Hector also plays a critical role in releasing himself from grief, and this is the real ransom that king Priam brings to Achilles. The ability to achieve closure. The message of forgiveness is further spread to influence more people. Towards the end of Invictus, the director employs a high angle shot to show the white and black bodyguards lay rugby together harmoniously. Similar to Invictus, the novel Ransom, depicts the relief shared by two warring countries due to a brief truce of nine days. The texts diverge in the aspect that future reconciliation is guaranteed for South Africa, while ancient Greece and Troy, due to the influence of density, are doomed to continue their fight, which is foreshadowed by the writer’s use of flash-forward.
Secondly, the leader’s importance is made clear in their ability to stand firm in their faith even when it means they have to make an unpopular decision that might come at the cost of their own political capital. In the film Invictus, Mandela brings people together through tapping on the potential of South African rugby team the Springboks and reaching out to people through the universal language of sports. This is reflected by a scene where a black African boy Sipho who rejects the volunteer’s offer of a second-hand Springboks jersey. The medium camera shot shows his panicky facial expression. The director further employs the dialogue between the two-lady volunteer to explain how culturally divided the society is as well as how the disparity in people’s opinions of the Springboks, as the black lady told the white lady, “if he wearns it, the others will beat him up.” He also braves the challenges of his supporters and risk losing political capital to persuade the National Sports council to give up their petty vengeance to “surprise” the white people with “their generosity.” Additionally, Eastwood utilizes a close shot to show the Springboks team member teaching black African boys to play rugby jubilantly in the township, which is organized by Mandela, the sigh “one team one country” in the scene reinforces the message that Mandela’s vision is turning into a reality. In addition, the theme of vision also echoed in Ransom. Which tells a story of how the elderly king of Troy Priam brings risks upon himself to go to the Greek camp to offer his archenemy Achilles the ransom to retrieve the body of his son Hector. Priam’s decision to adopt the identity as “a man” and “a father” in his approach of Achilles meets the protest and disapproval of those around him, as in an ancient society where destiny and god’s authority are revered and feared, such notion of “chance” is deemed as unimaginable. As a result, thanks to their vision, both Mandela and Priam achieve what is previously as impossible. The two writes diverge in the way they derive their courage from. Mandela’s decision-making is motivation by his ability to imagine a version of future different from what people are used to for decades. In contrast, Priam attributes the vision to goddess Iris in the dream.
Thirdly, at some points of their lives, leaders need to transcend their roles to embrace humanity. In the book, “Ransom” Priam is resolved to take the chance to fulfil his role as a father. Upon his meeting with Somax, Priam realizes the absence of his paternal feeling in him. He comes to acknowledge that he sees his sons more as the heroes and the defenders of Troy rather his sons. He realizes his role as a father has been largely “formal and symbolic”. Priam is not even sure if the “actual number” of sons he has, “maybe fifty.” Whereas Hecuba can recall particular details of her children’s lives, the truth for Priam is that “none of his sons was in that sense particular”. Malouf also juxtaposes Somax’s memories of his son with Priam’s, thus, Priam realizes that he has not experienced loss in the same sense that the carter has. Although Priam has mourned many children’s deaths, and “yet it was just such unnecessary things in the old man’s talk, occasions in which pain and pleasure were inextricably mixed, that so engaged and moved him.” Priam in one sense does regret his lack of sharing “human occasions” with his children that Somax describes “in such a lively manner, so full of emotion.” Moreover, in the film Invictus, Eastwood illustrates that Mandela, through historically idolized as a “saint” is just a “man with a man’s problems” whose health and wellbeing are sacrificed for those of his nation. However, Mandela’s belief in his “unconquerable soul,” forged by his time in Robben island, gives him the mental fortitude Achilles lacks. Mandela believes in the ability to change, and indeed he feels obligated to enact it. In sharp contrast Achilles, paralyzed by the perceived “fixed” nature of his existence, importantly attempts.
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