One is set in modern-day England, the other among the ancient Mayans, just prior to the time the Spaniards arrived. Both are about ‘nice’ people who encounter outlaws. In both, the characters’ ordeal is such that nothing will be the same for them afterwards. In both, a startling revelation alters the whole paradigm. In both, at the end, the main characters are desperately clinging to a love fiercely tested.
In ‘Breaking and Entering,’ Jude Law plays Will, an architect who is attempting to work in the notorious King’s Cross section of London, the reclamation of urban blight being his personal and professional focus. He finds it easier, these days, to be at the office a lot: his live-in of ten years (Vera Farmiga) has a daughter from a previous relationship, an autistic girl who is such a handful (high energy, little sleep, constant demands for attention, no ability to concentrate mentally) that she creates continuous stress on the family. After the office is robbed twice, and his laptop stolen, Will spends many nights on a personal ‘stakeout’ in the seedy neighborhood where his firm is located. There, he encounters a salty hooker with an aggressive marketing technique (Robin Wright Penn), and begins to chat with her in his car over coffee. Then, on the night when he finally spots the burglar (Rafi Gavron), and gives determined chase to the acrobatic bugger, he discovers where the kid lives. It turns out that he and his mother, Amira (Juliette Binoche), are immigrants from Bosnia. His father died in the fighting there, and it’s his uncle who’s employing his acrobatic talents for thieving. Amira is just struggling to survive, by running a small tailoring business out of her home. Will cannot help himself; he knocks on Amira’s door and asks if she can repair a jacket for him. Then he finds himself wanting to spend time with Amira, while still debating if he should prosecute her son for robbing him. In this film, there are a lot of blurred lines of morality, ethics, and professionalism. Yes, people will do almost anything when they are desperate, but the thin veneer of civilization is still worth preserving, because it beckons people to a higher plane.
In ‘Apocalypto,’ Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is one day enjoying being in successful hunting party with the men of his peaceful jungle village, and the next day they are ruthlessly attacked, overpowered, enslaved, and carried off into exile. He manages to hide his pregnant wife and young son in a nearby rock pit, but now they are left to their own devices as the sad processional of unwilling slaves stumbles to the city where they will be forever brutalized. Here, the bloodthirsty crowds gather to witness the literally heart-rending sacrifices to bloodthirsty gods. And the slaves labor at building another great temple, where severed heads can roll down the ceremonial steps to the delight of the merciless mob. When Jaguar Paw manages to escape, his pursuers are as relentless as they are cruel, but we are rooting for him to somehow manage to return to his stranded family and begin again. Along the way, there is incredible hardship for all, and the stark brutality of the age is vividly presented. But the ‘surprise’ at the end changes everything. In ‘Apocalypto,’ as in ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ Director Mel Gibson again requires all the actors to speak in dialect, and there are many moviegoers who will put up with neither the subtitles nor the gory scenes of capricious violence. But this film has an authentic feel to it. And at the end, the surviving characters find within them strength they didn’t know they had, and are all the more noble for it.
Questions For Discussion:
1) How does a ‘difficult’ child affect the relationship between the parents?
2) Have you ever found yourself fascinated with some of the ‘seamy’ side? Have you asked yourself why?
3) Have you ever done something you’re not proud of in order to accomplish a greater purpose, like keeping your family together? Have you spoken about this to anyone else?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas