Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Apocalypto Now

I've never been a big Mel Gibson fan, and with his recent highly publicized personal behavior such a turn off, I might never have rented Apocalypto, a 2006 action adventure movie by Touchstone Pictures, had I known he directed it. Lucky for me, ignorance is bliss, because not only was this movie a stunning visual feast, but so mentally captivating, I felt like I was immersed physically into the violent action of this mysterious culture during the entire duration of the movie.

The Mayan civilization is known for its spectacular art, monumental architecture and sophisticated understanding of both mathematics and astronomy. It is also the only culture of the pre-Columbian Americas to have a written language. At around 800 A.D. this powerful culture and society began to decline due to rising conflicts, dense population and ecological factors such as drought.

The movie takes place in the twilight of this culture's demise, one that has lasted nearly a 1,000 years. During those few hours of the movie's length you are taken by the hand through the lush jungle experience with all senses fully engaged as you cheer the determined Jaguar Paw on through his violent capture and escape from blood thirsty adversaries as if his successful escape determines your own survival against the cruel predators he encounters in this raw jungle environment.

It is the incredible realism of the sounds of the jungle foliage being ripped through by powerful bodies running on bare feet in the many chases scenes, the realistic and brutal spilling of blood as heads roll in human sacrifice down the stepped facade of Mayan Temples, and the extreme and exotic visual scenes of the urban festivities that will keep you mesmerized during the entire length of the film.

While some cultural experts lambaste Gibson for inaccuracies and the intensely brutal depiction of the Mayan people, others, including many Mayan groups have pronounced the production to be consistent with the cultural knowledge of this ancient people. It is common belief that the Maya were wiped out by the Spanish Conquistadors, when in fact there are approximately 6 million Mayan living in and near to Central America.

The fact that the movie's cast is made up almost entirely of "naturals" not professional actors, lends another element of realism to the action that wouldn't be possible if say Academy Award winner Mel Gibson himself were a star in the movie. Hurray for Hollywood on this one. This movie is an artistic triumph and I urge you to rent it.--Ruth Mitchell

Apocalypto(c) 2008 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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