Thursday, February 18, 2010


Above: the scene at the start of the chase where the prisoners are released into an arena for archery practice by the city-dwellers (apparently the blue paint is authentic and not a repeat of the Braveheart woad howler).

On Sunday I watched the 2006 film Apocalypto. It was on BBC2 from 11pm. I had been looking forward to the film, which I missed when it was in the cinema, but it was a disappointment.

The film is directed by Mel Gibson and written by Mel Gibson "working with" Farhad Safinia.

The movie shows the primeval forest-dwelling existence of a Mayan tribe in the year 1500. This tribe is savagely overwhelmed by city-dwelling Maya who live in a hierarchical and exploitative society and practice a blood-thirsty religion based on human sacrifice. One of the forest-dwelling Maya escapes from the city and after an extended chase sequence escapes his pursuers because they are stunned into inaction by the arrival of Europeans.

Subliminally the themes can be represented as: forest dwelling is good and city-dwelling is bad; life is a race which only the strongest and swiftest will survive; the ancient Maya were an evil society that needed to be curbed by the Europeans.

Mel Gibson's ubermensch ideology in this film is grossly offensive on a number of levels. Although his earlier film Braveheart can be dismissed as comical trash, Apocalypto represents a more sinister agenda. It is a celebration of the idea of natural selection applied to humanity.

The noble savages of the forest are shown as animals - eating offal raw, procreating children, asserting their ancestral rights to hunt the forest.

The evil savages of the city are shown as monsters - no attempt is made to understand the complex Mayan religion. In an obviously invented scene the chief monster-priest makes a Mussolini-style speech from the top of a pyramid (there is no evidence speeches were ever made in this way). In a farcical scene that could have been lifted from an Enid Blyton novel the city savages are cowed by a sudden eclipse (ignoring the fact that Mayan astronomers would have been able to predict eclipses well in advance).

On the evidence of the lingering sequences in this film, Mel Gibson enjoys scenes of sado-masochism, and has an obsession with male gluteal muscles.

The photography is poor (actually blurred in many places) and the music is bad.

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