Mayan madness

It is roundabout the year 1500. Somewhere deep in the jungles of Central America lies the happy little village of Unpronounceable. The men of the village spend their time hunting, joshing about tapir testicles and playing practical jokes involving genitals and chillies on one another. The women … well, we don’t know what the women spend their time doing, other than having babies or complaining that they aren’t having enough babies.

Into this tropical idyll bursts a crew of Mayan marauders, intent on kidnapping some villagers for human sacrifice or, if they don’t measure up, retail at the slave market. This capture involves a lot of throat-slitting, skull-crunching violence, with weeping children thrown in, and then a tortuous forced march. The Mayans are having some agricultural troubles, so they need extra human sacrifices this week.

Luckily, our hero, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), is saved from sacrifice by that old standby of the bad storyteller, coincidence. Next thing he is on the run, heading back to his village, pursued by a bunch of Mayan sadists led by the evil Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo), who has obviously been doing a lot of working out at the local ziggurat-gym and is clearly crazed on herbal steroids.

Such is the plot of Apocalypto, directed by that old joker Mel Gibson. Historians, archaeologists and descendants of the Maya have already objected strenuously to his version of the facts about the Maya, and it’s hard to see why he chose to set this action thriller in that era or locale, except that it provides him with a set of bloodthirsty villains even more heinous than the Jews.

The depiction of the Mayan city and its gory rituals is impressive, but we’re not told anything significant about the culture, so the film is useless on that level. Apart from the setting, Apocalypto is a collection of action clichés enlivened only by the increasingly ingenious ways people get killed. Certainly, this is a gorefest to rival The Passion of the Christ in its leering pleasure at icky violence. But it has emotion, too! In a transparently manipulative attempt to ratchet up the tension, Jaguar Paw’s child and pregnant wife have spent all this time hiding in a deep pit that is steadily filling up with water.

At over two hours, Apocalypto feels like it takes centuries to unfold. The fact that it is all in some version of whatever 16th-century Mayans spoke renders it more preposterous rather than more believable. And what the hell is the title supposed to mean? Oh, I see — it’s a Mayan word derived from the old Greek name for the last book of the Bible, which means “revelation”. They were very clever and well-informed, those Mayans. Even if they were a bunch of blood-

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday