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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Apocalypto: A warning sign?


'Apocalypto' is such a visually beautiful film that it grips you from the start. If anyone has already seen the trailer, they will know what I'm talking about. Mel Gibson's previous films - Braveheart and Passion of the Christ - were both spectacles on a grand scale. Apparently, on both occasions, studio bosses scratched their heads and said it wouldn't work and well...the movies did work their magic at the box office... and spectacularly at that.

So, one has to go with Mel Gibson's choice of subjects and his style of movie-making because he does a good job with both. Then there is the bonus of some good acting by lesser known actors. I noticed Jim Caviezel in High Crimes, only because I thought he did a superlative job as Jesus Christ in Passion of the Christ.

Apocalypto has a lot of relatively unknown actors from Mexico City, who have done a great job of speaking their dialogues in Yucatec Maya - one of the many native languages of the Mayans - on whom the movie is based. Just like Gibson brought the Aramaic language to life on big screen in Passion of the Christ, which gave the movie so much authenticity - the same is felt when one watches the young and promising leads in the Apocalypto talk with one another in that haunting sing-song cadence.

The cast is well chosen with everyone having very Indian-Mayan features and they all slip into character with effortless ease. Their bare-minimum costumes, the intricate head gear and nose ornaments, the setting in the forests...all add up to the feel of the film.

Rudy Youngblood and Dalia Hernandez play the young couple in the film - Jaguar Paws and his wife Seven respectively. Youngblood holds the glue to the narrative because he is the first to spot the other tribe that has been dispossessed of their lands, his people are then taken prisoner and force marched and he's almost beheaded, but for divine intervention. So, he is present throughout the journey and you see the story through his eyes.

You see the death of his way of life and the disappearance of a his people - a great civilisation - (as the movie correctly points out) because of the infighting between warring and pillaging tribes and also due to sheer ignorance, where human sacrifices are called for when there has been a drought for a long time. Where slave labour is used to build a city. And where his simple existence in the forest is all that he wants to preserve - for his sons and grandsons.


As if any proof was required, this movie shows the futility of war and bloodshed, more than anything else. All viewers can and should glean their own meaning from the storyline - but to me, it stands as much for how useless killing (or bombing somebody out of existence) is today, as it was for the Mayans. This movie forces us to watch out for what could happen to humanity as a whole, if things are allowed to go beserk.

What's more chilling is that, blaming the Spanish was not an option that the Mayans could exercise because they didn't know 'who' or 'what' they were. Today, we do it for them, with 20/20 hindsight. But, who will do it for us, if we all go the Mayan way....and disappear?

If we don't want to go down that destructive route, then watching this film could be a good start.

Look at a preview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF3-CYBGJcM

Written for www.moneycontrol.com

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