The wife and I have a Netflix deal where we get two movies, mail them back, and get two more. I don’t know who came up with the idea but surely the dude’s a millionaire . . . talk about convenient! However, in the spirit of complete disclosure you sometimes get a disc that is so used and abused that no machine on this planet could possibly play it!
So, I finally ordered Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto . I’d put it off for a while because Mel’s The Passion of the Christ is my favorite all-time film and I didn’t think he could best that and Mel’s been acting goofy again chasing around some long-legged girl and betraying his marriage vows, all of which set off my Puritan sensibilities. Mr. Gibson appears to have some spiritual pathologies to deal with and I really don’t want to judge the guy.
But I like Mel and I think he’s rather a film genius, and in watching Apocalypto that idea is reinforced!
In this film, Gibson purposefully examines human beings, and families, and the relationship of elders to younger clansmen in a primitive, non-Christian, context. In this case in the jungles of Central or South America where a small village is overrun by Aztec warriors looking for slaves to offer the grumpy Sun God. While the offerings were the males, the females were apparently used for chores and breeding, something of a short, nasty, and brutish existence awaited these unfortunates.
Rather amazingly Gibson, somehow, is able to take people barely clad and I mean butt-cheeks hanging out and breast jingling in the air and in a very short time make the viewer become comfortable with this nudity and concentrate on the storyline.
In his portrayal Gibson establishes the universal humanity of these primitive yet exquisite human beings. They aren’t dirty people living in squalor, they are loving and generous and kind to one another. They work together, love their children, and worship their gods. They have made a strong, vibrant, complex and successful human establishment. His sympathetic portrayal of these villagers who have learned to exist in a dangerous environment correctly locates the film’s trajectory as it explores the horrific exigencies of existence.
Gibson has that gift of creating villains who define the corrupt pathologies of our species, villains who are the most profound and complex perhaps in movie history and Apocalypto is no exception.
One final comment on Brother Gibson is his injection of a spiritual element in his films. The Passion of the Christ had the androgynous Demon Thing, that just fascinated me, and Apocalyto continues the tradition.
And, I should mention that there is a scene where one of the villagers is escaping from the Aztec city and runs over this hill where suddenly the ground turns gray. And, as he proceeds down the hill slipping and sliding, we see that the hill is comprised of the decapitated bodies of ALL those human beings that were being sacrificed to the Sun God . . . a hill of rotting, stinking flesh. I nearly blew dinner!
I did not know any of the actors in this film, yet the acting was absolutely brilliant, the storyline was outstanding, the historical references, ect all seemed to me to be spot on. I intend to buy a copy of this film (high praise indeed), it is on my top ten best films list.