Juan Santos on Apocalypto

 On Apocalypto

Juan Santos

Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto is not a mere adventure tale, it’s not just another excruciatingly brutal portrayal of apocalyptic violence for its own sake, and the Village Voice is dead wrong when it says that unlike Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto is “unburdened by nationalist or religious piety,”— that it’s “pure, amoral sensationalism.”

Despite 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.

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