Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Apocalypto and the Mayan Collapse

Travers and I saw Apocalypto last week. Wow. It's taken me this long to process (and perhaps recover) from the film experience. It was that intense. I'm gonna share a couple things about the plot, so you might consider this post a spoiler.

People have asked me if I'd suggest that they'd see the film. I've found that difficult to answer. Also the question of, "Did you like the movie?" is hard to respond properly to.

Mel Gibson (in my opinion) is an incredible director. I still think of Braveheart as one of my favorites of all time. And while I wasn't any huge fan of The Passion of the Christ, I did think the movie was a bold move for him...and I really applauded the use of Aramaic instead of English. I could have even gone without subtitles.

Anyway, Apocalypto followed by using it's own indigenous language...Mayan.

Well, I have to say the movie wasn't what I thought it'd be. After recently reading Jared Diamond's Collapse, I thought this for sure was going to be a film about the Classic Mayan Collapse...and it would perhaps be a warning to our own society in our own time...about treading heavily upon this earth and warring over natural resources.

Nope. It was a movie about a guy...who was pumped up to be this sort of Chosen One...who basically ran away from being captured...and because the gods were on his side, he lived. Hmm. I mean that's cool and all, but it wasn't what I had hoped for.

I kept wondering what Mel was trying to say with this film. Certainly the follow-up to his last film would really say something. I'm just not sure what it was.

Was he pointing to the purity of the indigenous, disparate tribes amidst the vulgarity of this Mayan Empire? Was he trying to remind us that all empires were built on the backs of slaves? Was he critiquing the use of power by the religious? Or showing the hypocrisy of using "God" to justify anything? And when the Spaniards arrive near the end, did they symbolize hope for this savage continent? Or further oppression...perhaps that empires build off of collapsed empires? Or was it kind of one evil canceling another out?

And what of this Chosen One? Is he advocating a sort of Essene withdrawal to "begin again" while letting the world go to hell in a handbasket? Ignore the oppression of the empire?

I dunno. I am still scratching my head, wondering why I sat through what might be the most disturbingly violent film I have ever seen.

After this and the last film, I'm pretty certain that Mel is enamored with violence. (I know you're saying Duh.)

So, all in all, it was an interesting film, but too violent for me...and not macro enough. The whole last half of the film was a chase sequence with the Mayans dying in interesting ways. What's up?

Anyone else see this film?

BTW, here is an interesting take on the film by an anthropologist with some formed opinions.


Chris said...

I saw this film last weekend as well. And, I was surprised as well. I thought, like you, that it would paint a broader picture of collapse and usher a sort of warning.

... I left disappointed.

The violence in the film was purposeful at many points, but; there were several times I caught myself beginning to giggle when I considered how ridiculous it seemed.

Was the scene with the birthing really necessary?

david g said...

I saw it last night, so I am definitely still processing...
As far as the arrival of the Spaniards at the end, I definitely did not take it as hopeful. In fact, I probably could have gone either way with the movie up until that point (liking it or not liking it, overall)- but that scene cemented it as a movie that i like. I thought that perfectly brought the movie full circle from the quote that appears at the very beginning (something like 'a civilizaion is not destroyed from the outside until it has destroyed itself from within). I got the feeling that Gibson was showing how that civilization was destoying itself from within throughout the movie, and the arrival of the Spaniards was his ominous sign that it was about to be destroyed from outside.

Joe Blattert said...
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Joe Blattert said...
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Joe Blattert said...

Check out Ben Shapiro's column today - I had read earlier that Mel Gibson was comparing Mayan civilization with American. That, and the blog comments (Ryan's?) about Apocalypto are enough to convince me I won't bother succumbing to an orgy of violence by going to see it.