Invictus Summary & Analysis by William Ernest Henley

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Summary of the Movie
  • Conflict and Denouement


Movies accomplish many functions in one's life. They can be viewed for leisure and relaxation; or for personal and mutual entertainment. However, the role of films cannot be reduced to these recreational means exclusively, as they serve many other purposes as well. Movies have the potential to provoke thoughts, start discussions, clarify ideas, or inspire actions.

In this paper, we study the movie "Invictus". The word Invictus refers to being ‘Invincible' or ‘Unconquered' in Latin. The plot of this film is based upon the book "Conquering the Enemy" by John Carlin. Invictus is the inspirational true story of Nelson Mandela and his attempts to unify his people. The movie is set in South Africa during the election of President Nelson Mandela and the emergence of 1995 Rugby World Cup victors.

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The movie uses rugby as its referenced sport and Springboks team as a central element; however, it does not address the tactical or technical part of the sport. Invictus brings forward an important sociological function that makes sports such an integral part of human society; namely social integration. Sports have the potential to foster unity, integration, strengthening community and cohesion, searching for motivation, and developing character.

This paper has wishes to address the backdrop of Nelson Mandela's political leadership, and describe the main characteristics of multiple leadership styles. Authoritarian, Transformational, Strategic, and Servant leadership are all forms of influence that have defined in one way or another, the greatness and efficacy of Mr. Mandela's authority. Next an examination of another character in the film, Francois Pienaar, will be used to understand from the Afrikaner perspective, what methods were for motivation, and encourage of the rugby team. From here there will be a holistic inquiry as to Group Dynamics in the film, to understand their impact on leadership and authority. A combination of class concepts, guest lectures, journal articles, and other forms of research will be the backdrop and substance of our assertions on leadership.

Summary of the Movie

The story revolves around Nelson Mandela's strategy in reconciling the South African Nation. The movie starts with the image of a split society; where, on one side, there are black children in torn clothes playing football on barren terrain, and on the other side, white children playing rugby on a playground covered in lush green grass. The juxtaposition between both sides is observed, and coincides with the moment Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of incarceration.

Mandela was elected as the first black president of the newly desegregated South Africa on May 10th, 1994. His first day of office, Mr. Mandela, along with his bodyguards, were walking before dawn when a bus dropped a pile of newspapers with a headline: "He can win an election, but can he rule the country?". This question triggered Mr. Mandela to think about his vision to unite his nation and remove racism. He believed that a violent uprising against apartheid would have horrific consequences otherwise. Therefore, finding some way to create a nonviolent transition to a majority rule was essential to his vision. But how do you persuade such diverse groups to let go off their deep-seated fears and resentments and pursue a common purpose? The answer was to benefit from the Rugby World Cup hosted by his country and consider it an opportunity to achieve his goals.

The Springboks was formed by the Afrikaners and was dominated by the White players. The black public in South Africa despised the Springboks, as it was a symbol of white oppression and years of abuse and violence. As only the caucasian public supported the Springboks. Mr. Mandela saw what could have been a divisive event as an opportunity for healing and progress. He recognized that rugby had a deeper meaning off the field, and that the World Cup had the potential to become a symbolic opportunity for reconciliation and forgiveness. His vision was an inclusive "rainbow nation," and he wanted his actions to portray what he believed in.

The presidential guard displayed serious disagreements to Mr. Mandela about the union with their white counterparts. To this, Mr. Mandela answered "You represent me, directly. The rainbow nation starts here. Reconciliation starts here; forgiveness also starts here". One poignant moment comes when the executive council vote to outlaw the Springboks' name and colors. Mandela drops everything to overturn this decision.

Conflict and Denouement

Mr. Mandela's presence and kindness were key motivating factors for Mr. Pienaar when he challenged him saying that "an opportunity was in the waiting in having billion people watch the match". He later gave Pienaar a copy of the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, saying that it had helped him when the future looked very bleak. It famously ends with the line: "I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul". At the end of the meeting, Francois realized his adoption of Mr. Mandela's vision and change in his perspective of the game. He then believed, how important it was for the Springboks to win for South Africa. The players visited Robben Island, where Mr. Mandela was imprisoned. There, Pienaar was moved by the story of Mandela ‘having spent years in a tiny cell and coming out ready to forgive the people who put him there. This led him to inspire his underperforming team and in the last scene Mandela strides onto the rugby field at Ellis Park Stadium wearing a Springboks jersey to present the trophy to the team captain.

With the introduction and summary already in place to give a ground of common understanding, further ahead, we aim to explore the various leadership traits of prime characters reflected throughout the movie. We will begin by leader of the people.

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