Skip to comments.Mel's Latest: Brilliant Film, Inane Interpretation
Posted on 12/11/2006 11:05:40 PM PST by beaversmom
Mel Gibsons Apocalypto is an audacious, unforgettable triumph and, undoubtedly, one of the richest, most electrifying cinematic experiences of the year. In that context its unfortunate that the filmmaker has coupled his brilliance as a writer-director with a display of unalloyed idiocy as a commentator on his own work.
The stupidity began in September when he spoke to an audience in Austin, Texas after an early screening of his still unfinished film. At the time, he succeeded in getting advance attention for his work by drawing parallels between the fantastically brutal and dysfunctional Mayan civilization he portrays on screen and the current political situation in the United States. The precursors to a civilization thats going under are the same, time and time again, he explained. Whats human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?
His comments came across like an unexpected punch-in-the-nose to many of the conservatives across the country who had rallied to his defense during the furious dispute over The Passion of the Christ, and even pleaded for forgiveness and reconciliation in his behalf in the wake of his toxic combination of drunk driving and anti-Semitic drivel.
Nevertheless, with his film finished, ready for its Friday (December 8) release, and overwhelming audiences everywhere with its eye-popping visual splendor and relentless narrative energy, the Gibsonian interpretation of his own work has gotten, if anything, even more inane.
The official press kit from Touchstone Pictures (a division the Disney Company) quotes Gibson as saying: Throughout history, precursors to the fall of a civilization have always been the same, and one of the things that just kept coming up as we were writing is that many of the things that happened right before the fall of the Mayan civilization are occurring in our society now. It was important for me to make that parallel because you see these cycles repeating themselves over and over again. People think that modern man is so enlightened, but were susceptible to the same forces and we are also capable of the same heroism and transcendence.
The press kit also quotes Farhad Safinia, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gibson, making similar observations: We discovered that what archeologists and anthropologists believe is that the daunting problems faced by the Maya are extraordinarily similar to those faced today by our own civilization, especially when it comes to widespread environmental degradation, excessive consumption and political corruption.
On the one hand, these fatuous remarks distort the situation in the United States today--far from widespread environmental degradation, for instance, the quality of our air and water has improved dramatically over the last thirty years, at the same time that reforestation has substantially enlarged the acreage of our already impressive woodlands.
Even more startling is the vast, unbridgeable gap between the politically correct comments by Gibson and his collaborator and the raw integrity of the film they actually made. Their observations about the extraordinary similarity between Mayan decadence and degeneracy and the realities of American life in the 21st century receive no support whatever from the thrilling adventure story that unfolds in the nearly two-and-a-half hours of the final version of Apocalypto. In fact, their interpretation of the project bears so little connection to the film itself that you wonder not only whether they truly made the movie, but whether theyve ever actually seen it. Nothingnot one scene, one character, one set, or one passing detail in the film in any way echoes contemporary America, even as seen by this societys most embittered critics. The movie contains no sequences emphasizing environmental degradation (unless you count a heart-pounding chase through a corn field where the stalks look somewhat withered) or political corruption. (The spectacle of enslaving primitive tribesmen, binding them with ropes and sticks, marching them to your capital and then slashing open their chests to rip their hearts out in human sacrifice cant rightly be described as political corruptionnor does this pagan savagery connect in any way with current controversies in our society. No matter how much Mr. Gibson may disapprove of the Iraq war, its a stretch to suggest that sacrificial victims captured very much against their will, and after their spirited struggle (and after their village has been utterly destroyed) bear any relationship to the volunteers who chose to fight in the Middle East.
The cruel, sadistic, masochistic, deeply demented culture of the Mayas, with its self-destructive emphasis on mutilation and mysticism, slavery and superstition, emerges with conviction and flair on the screen but will cause no one to think, Oh, wow, that really reminds me of New York and LA!
So why would a brilliant artist like Mel Gibson insist on ludicrously describing his masterpiece as a commentary on todays social, cultural, political problems, when no sane viewer of his picture would note or even suspect those messages?
Perhaps Gibson is so eager to transcend the humiliation of his drunk driving incident, and to bury the lingering suspicions that The Passion (despite its huge commercial success) was a right-wing, hate-filled screed, that hes saying stupid things that he believes will endear him to the progressive Hollywood establishment.
Clearly, the film (with dialogue in the ancient Yucatec language, with subtitles) represents a major risk and he needs great reviews to get the attention required for decent box office performance. By cooking up some preposterous lefty interpretation of Mayan collapse (is the big chieftain with the body scarring and the elaborate tattoos and the distended ears and the carved piece of jade in place of his nose supposed to represent George W. Bush?) Gibson may be trying to position his adrenalin-soaked, breathlessly paced chase picture as an important, daring message movie that indicts the U.S.
Even if theres no basis whatever in the substance of the film for Mels alarmist, were-all-guilty-and-doomed commentary about US society, the attempt to fabricate a political subtext for a visceral, straight-ahead action-adventure may prove an effective strategy. The positioning of a relentlessly fast-moving thriller set in Mexicos Yucatan Peninsula more than five hundred years ago as some searing, timely indictment of over consumption and political corruption in Bush-era USA, may force some high brow critics to take Apocalypto more seriously than they would without the pretentious preaching surround its release. Theres another advantage concerning the movies distribution overseas: Gibsons comments will help to produce the warm reception in France thats all-but-guaranteed for any work plausibly classified as anti-American.
Cultural Crusader ping. Anyone want on or off this low volume ping list for Michael Medved (mainly articles/movie reviews), please send me an FR mail.
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When did we start offering enemy hearts to the Sun God?????
I think he's against the Iraq war because he has a deep hatred and or distrust of Jews.
His father is one of those Old Testament, fire and brimstone fundamentalist preachers, and overtly anti-Jew. When that controversy broke, Mel stood behind his father, it seems they share the same views.
That being said I really like a lot of his movies and it's disappointing to see this side of him.
Abortion, abortion compares nicely.
Hmmm...maybe we should start thinking about that...
I haven't seen all his movies, but I've liked quite a few that he has starred in and/or directed. I can't wait to see this one. Medved said it's one of the most violent films he's ever seen but gave it four out of four stars. He said you get caught up in it from the start.
"His father is one of those Old Testament, fire and brimstone fundamentalist preachers, and overtly anti-Jew."
Hutton Gibson (Mel's father) is not a preacher, although he once studied for the Catholic priesthood. He is an anti-Semite though, and a Holocaust denier, plus more. Below is a bit of biography about Hutton Gibson:
According to Wensley Clarkson's biography of Mel Gibson, Hutton studied for the priesthood in a Chicago seminary called the Society of the Divine Word. According to one friend of the family, he left the seminary on the eve of World War II, disgusted with the Modernist doctrines taught there.
Hutton Gibson served as a US Army Officer in the Pacific Theater during World War II after graduation from an OCS program. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Guadalcanal and invalided home in 1944.
He married Anne Reilly Gibson on May 1, 1944 at the Catholic parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Brooklyn, New York. They had ten children and adopted another after their arrival in Australia. Anne died in 1990. Hutton has since remarried.
Hutton Gibson and Jeopardy!
Hutton Gibson claims to have won a substantial amount of money on the Art Fleming version of the Jeopardy! game show. After winning several thousand dollars on his first appearance, he reportedly won $21,000 at the Jeopardy! championship. Episodes from this era of the show do not survive, so there may be no formal record of Gibson's appearance. The show currently considers 1965 Grand Champion Burns Cameron's cumulative total of $11,100 to be the Fleming-era record, a much smaller amount than the amount that Gibson claims.
In the 1960s Gibson worked for New York Central Railroad. In the early morning hours of December 11, 1964 he slipped on some spilled oil and seriously injured his back. A work injury lawsuit followed and it finally went to court on February 7, 1968. Seven days later, on Valentine's Day, Gibson was awarded $145,000 by the jury. What remained of this money after paying off debts and lawyers was still a substantial sum, and with that he relocated his family to Australia that same year. One of the reasons he made this move was reportedly because he believed that changes in American society were immoral.
Hutton Gibson in Australia
After the promulgation of the Novus Ordo, the Gibson family home in Sydney, Australia was used as a secret chapel where the Tridentine Mass was offered. Also, Hutton used the house to store statues and altar relics which were being discarded by Catholic parishes at the time.
Hutton was the secretary of the Latin Mass Society of Australia, but was ousted after becoming increasingly vocal about his belief that the See of Peter is vacant due to the Popes embracing heresy (see Sedevacantism).
Hutton Gibson is a Sedevacantist (a form of Traditionalist Catholicism). His ideas, however, are rejected by many in the Traditionalist Catholic community. He believes that the Second Vatican Council introduced heretical doctrines into the Roman Catholic Church, and he believes that every Pope elected since Pope John XXIII have been illegitimate anti-popes. He has been especially critical of the late Pope John Paul II (whom he refers to as "Garrulous Karolus the Koran Kisser").  He has also stated that the Second Vatican Council was the result of a secret anti-Catholic plot orchestrated by both Masons and Jews.
Gibson adheres to the theory that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were not carried out by Islamist terrorists aboard the planes, but rather by an unknown party using a "remote control,". He further believes that Jews want to take over the world and establish a one world religion and government.
Hutton Gibson (left) with Holocaust denier Fredrick Töben, head of the Adelaide Institute, at the 2003 International Conference on Authentic History, Real News and the First Amendment
When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (prior to becoming Pope) stated that, although Judaism did not accept Jesus, it was nevertheless the "elder brother" of Christianity, Gibson observed that Abel also had an elder brother.
He questions aspects of the Jewish Holocaust, especially the commonly accepted statistic that between five million to seven million Jews were killed, arguing that it would have been impossible for the Nazis to have disposed of so many bodies. He further claims that most of the Holocaust was "fiction," that the thousands of Jews who disappeared from Poland during World War II "got up and left", and that census statistics prove there were more Jews in Europe after World War II than before (a claim that is disputed by historians). In support of his father, Mel Gibson claims that his father's beliefs do not amount to Holocaust denial. (Mel Gibson also says that he loves his father and will not speak out publicly against him.)
Hutton Gibson publishes a quarterly newsletter called The War is Now! in which he details many of his views.
might abortion equal that?
Hmmm, I am almost starting to think Mel is suffering from a bit from alcohol related dementia. I know a number of brilliant people who are former or current alcoholics and who are very functional in their careers but have a huge disconnect when it comes to discussing politics and issues. Even the sober ones tend to rant or make irrational connections. Reason and facts go out the window with them. I am starting to think that maybe Mel is not making these statements to kiss up to Hollywood liberals, but rather that there is a part of his brain that is in "disconnect."
He has a genius about him but is an idiot about various things at the same time. I don't know what it is. Too much hate/conspiracy talk growing up? Too much booze? A genetic defect? Hard to say.
I kind of think it is the dad/family influence and the booze abuse. In a way, that makes me less upset about his statements. Just another reminder about taking celebrity pronouncements too seriously.
might abortion equal that?
Yes, abortion is equal. Just as cannibalism, homosexuality, and human sacrifices have brought down numerous nations(or been directly involved in the decline & destruction). So also will ruthless & relentless abortion practices(sacrifices) bring down modern western nations(or greatly promote their demise).
Mel Gibson is not the first actor with conservative leanings to be corrupted by Hollywood. Clint Eastwood seemed like a patriotic traditionalist at one time, but is now in the iron grip of political correctness, having produced enough trash to be rewarded with a shelf of Oscars. The message is not lost on others looking for Oscar glitz.
I was thinking abortion as well, but Mr. Gibson doesn't allude to it. So I can only assume he doesn't include that issue.
I think Mr. Eastwood has always claimed to be a Libertarian. So I wouldn't put him into the Conservative lump.
Well, we've been killing babies for the godesses of feminism and casual sex to the tune of 4,000 babies a day for decades. I don't think that's what Gibson meant. But we are a pretty depraved society.
Granted, we keep it behind closed doors and many of us are still decent enough to be ashamed of ourselves. But still . . .