Thursday, December 28, 2006

Some Final Words on Mel Gibson's Apocalypto

So, the attacks continue from the peanut-gallery of the Left--so what? I'm Left, and I'm not with you on this one. The same things were said about director Stanley Kubrick--he and Malcolm MacDowell were viciously-attacked for their contributions to "A Clockwork Orange" (1971-72). It got ugly for them, just take a look at the literature produced on the film, it's sprawling. I don't enjoy either film as entertainment, and I'm not necessarily comparing them on the level of importance. But, the themes against violence are similar, and therefore have a social-value the critics are wilfully-ignoring. If others are being "entertained", I would like to know how we could even reach them in their misunderstanding/misreading of both films anyway. It's elitist to think you can truly affect what people get out of movies, it really is. It's an authoritarian- impulse that I find disturbing.

Perhaps both gorehounds and the critics are jaded from the accumulative-effects of violence as it is portrayed in our culture, generally sans-consequences. Neither "A Clockwork Orange" nor "Apocalypto" glamorize violence, and it's a lie to say otherwise. Nearly every character we see victimized has a history, and an established personality. The consequences of violence are amply-depicted in both films. This is in-keeping with director Sam Peckinpah's approach, showing audiences the genuine hollowness and ugliness of violence--the senselessness of it all. That aspects of his style--and even Kubrick's--in portraying violence were hijacked by exploitation-filmmakers is immaterial to this approach, and a separate debate. There is a lot of intellectual dishonesty surrounding the criticism of both films, and essentially reactionary. It's ironic that the movies which portray the consequences of violence often get hard-R ratings or even "X" or NC-17 ratings...or is it?

However, it was clear from watching Apocalypto that Gibson's message is meant to be universal, and cautionary on several-points, including the need for environmental-conservation. I didn't find any of the deaths to be portrayed as "small events", not-at-all, they were very personal. It was all horrible, and reflects the feelings of the director towards violence--Gibson is deeply-disturbed by war and its depredations (and by Jews, sadly, though not present in the film). This was clear at the theater, and it makes me wonder if many of the film's critics know how to watch a movie, frankly. What has gotten-lost is this: the film is an allegory for the war in Iraq, and the current decline in American power. I would say Gibson welcomes a decline in American power to project itself internationally, and eschews the warrior-culture mentality that would describe John Milius (Red Dawn, 1985), Steven Seagal, or Sylvester Stallone better. Gibson has compared the death on both-sides in Iraq to the human-sacrifices in his film. This should be a clue, and the film should be judged on its own merits. There is a strange argument against showing the consequences of violence within the barrage of criticism surrounding Apocalypto--it should be met with suspicion. People have their "reasons." Just keep-repeating: It's only a movie, it's only a movie, it's only a movie.