December 09, 2006

Not just another snuff film

Apocalypto:  The Cinematic Logic of GenocideDespite its extreme brutality Apocalypto isn’t just Gibson’s latest snuff film with a religious theme. The film is a morality play, and there are only two things one needs to remember to get a hint of the ugly moral intent behind Mel Gibson’s depiction of the Maya.

The first is that, despite Gibson’s vile portrayal of the Maya as a macabre cult of deranged killers straight out of Apocalypse Now!, there is no evidence that the Mayan people ever practiced widespread human sacrifice, and they certainly didn’t target the innocent hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists Gibson chooses to portray as the victims of a Mayan death cult.

Gibson knows better. He studied the terrain in depth and had no practical limit to the funds he could expend on research. His portrayal is a conscious lie, one he uses to justify the premise that the Mayan city states collapsed because they deserved to collapse, and that they deserved to be replaced by a “superior” culture in the genocide known as the Conquest.

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within," is how Gibson puts it. In other words the Conquest was not genocide but a moral comeuppance; the civilization didn’t fall, in the final analysis, from climate change or inadvertent soil depletion or even war--it was conquered in god’s wrath against the forces of evil. And Gibson’s made sure you see the ancient Maya as a force of profound evil.


Anonymous said... seems to like the movie:

Your thoughts?

Rob said...

Carreon wrote his article in August 2005. He notes an earlier article that "describes the highly accurate Mayan Calendar and the Mayan Popol Vuh's (Mayan Bible) concept of the 'Fin de los Tiempos' (End of Time)." He thought this was what Apocalypto would be about.

From what I've read, Carreon missed the mark badly. None of these cultural concepts made it into the movie. You'd never know from Apocalypto that the Maya were "a much advanced people."

According to Mel Gibson, the Maya brought about their own "end of time" by being evil and sadistic. I doubt that's what the Maya had in mind. Their prophecies were about the death and rebirth of the whole world, not the death (without rebirth) of their own civilization.

Rob said...

Don't worry...I'll cover Apocalypto's box-office receipts and artistic awards (if any). Just because the movie sounds sick and stereotypical doesn't mean it isn't a pop-culture phenomenon.