Monday, January 15, 2007

Apocalypto

Posted by lea at 2:43 PM

If you can stomach a lot of violence, then you may enjoy this movie. If, however, you prefer your movies with minimal decapitation and disembowelling, you may end up watching most of this movie with your head buried in the shoulder of the person next to you. Need I explain which of these two camps I fell into?

Even just remembering scenes from the movie to write this entry is causing my stomach to churn with the memory of lunch. There’s so much sadism in this film, from the pillaging of a peaceful Mayan tribe to the human sacrifices that abound later in the movie, that you simply either turn away or switch off the feeling part of your brain so you can follow the rest of the film.

Jaguar Paw, the hero of Apocalypto, receives a premonition, a prophecy and becomes prey as he runs for his life from his captors (who wish to catch him, skin him and make him watch as they wear it) to save his pregnant wife and child. He’s a compelling hero who rises to the challenge and in the meantime, gives the audience one of the most incredible foot chases ever seen on celluloid.

The cinematography is awesome, but I felt that the sudden close ups and slo-mos gave the film a bit of a B-grade feel at times, which was rescued by the Yucatan dialogue (think of the horrific accents in Memoirs of a Geisha and you’ll understand what I mean).

I felt that the movie was very primitive, not only in content, but also in approach. If you’re planning to set a movie in a specific and mysterious culture, shouldn’t you incorporate something about that culture (apart from the grisly side)? I wanted to know more about the Mayans than their relish in gore, and felt that the film failed to show what distinguished them from any other similar culture.

The b/f, however, enjoyed the movie immensely – blood and guts and all – and was nice enough to lend me his shoulder throughout (although he did try to hold my lips together whenever I cried out, ‘Why are they DOING that? That’s so DISGUSTING!’).

He believes the movie is about civilisation and pecking order and the bloody bits just show realistically what it was like for people in those times. He maintains that it was not the aim of the film to provide a discourse on the Mayan culture, but I say, if it’s going to borrow from them for sensationalism, shouldn’t it do them some justice? I mean other than making them look like blood-hungry Neanderthals.

If I'd known more accurately what the film was about, I probably wouldn't have watched it. But now that I have, I'm busy trying to forget it, not because it's a bad film, but because it was so gory - much of which I felt wasn't justified in the plot.

1 comments:

Caesar on February 4, 2007 at 2:41 AM said...

You sure wrote a lot considering how little of the movie you claim to have seen...

I have to agree with "the b/f". At the end of the day, violence was an integral part of the culture (particularly primitive civilizations). To say that the movie missed the point is like saying The Passion misrepresented Christianity due to its focus on torturing the protagonist. If you wanted to watch something about the wondrous Mayan technology, pottery or art, go to a museum. The reality is that these people routinely went around killing other people - and this is the context in which this story is told.

A personal distaste for gore shouldn't be sufficient reason to claim that a movie is lacking. It is a valid form of expression, which not everybody might be comfortable with, but doesn't mean that it has any less artistic merit than say, sex/nudity, mental illness, or other themes in movies that people might find distasteful.

The film wasn't "about" violence, but it would sure help if you leave your modern sense of ethics and etiquette at the door.

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