After having watched the “making-of” documentary on the Apocalypto DVD, I’ve finally allowed myself the following [hardly] groundbreaking revelation: Mel Gibson is crazy. He was wide-eyed, fidgety, and — especially amidst the jungles in which Apocalypto was shot — a bit too close to Conrad’s Kurtz for comfort. This saddens me, because I have always liked his acting and his movies. But, too, we live in a culture where we have to look at our movie stars through two different lenses: a “professional” lens and a “personal-life” lens. If we only look at Mel through the professional lens, we see a brilliant artist, an actor and a director who always has a clear vision for his characters and films in general. But the media is always forcing the personal-life lens before our eyes, and so we must also confront the drunk, belligerent, loud-mouthed, anti-Semetic Mel. In much the same way that I view T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, I will cast aside the personal-life lens and try to view his work solely through the professional lens. (Mel’s drunken anti-Semitic remarks pale in comparison to what Eliot and especially Poud touted whilst sober; Uncle Leo, beware.)
Mel is one of those directors who doesn’t use audience screen tests to influence his films; like a true artist, he makes his films for himself first and “the audience” second. And really, this has worked just fine for him until now: in addition to Apocalypto, Braveheart and — dare I say it?! — The Passion of the Christ are works of art to watch and discuss. Even Passion, which is debatably anti-Semetic (“debatably” because we can, after all, have a discussion of just how anti-Semetic the Gospels Passion is based on are), is clearly a work that inspires some and riles others — just what a piece of art should do! It will be interesting to see what films he produces as a director in the future, for at least with parts of Passion and all of Braveheart and Apocalypto, he presents us with human beings on the brink of collapse, and requires us to study them alongside him; hopefully his future works will require us to do the same.
(P.S. If we’re hoping for things, let’s hope he doesn’t make a complete and utter fool of himself again in the future — oops, he just did. Okay, starting now, let’s hope he doesn’t make a complete and utter fool of himself…)