You know, if asked to pick sides, I'd have to say I'm against Mr Gibson. His religious fanaticism has really turned me off. Daniel Day Lewis once said that once you know how an actor puts on his socks, his acting ceases to be believable.
Once I knew that Mel Gibson was a nutcase who seemingly delighted in pushing his rabid religious agenda down the public's throat, it became hard to over look certain 'themes' in his work.
And yet I'm conflicted. The rather repugnant ideology at the core of Apocolypto* really taints the film in my eyes. And yet...
It shows stuff I've wanted to see on film since we did the Mayan unit in 5th grade. Our 5th grade teacher (The best teacher I ever had) delighted in grossing us out with all the details of human sacrifice, and the sight of Mayan excess depicted in such a gory and gratuitously realistic fashion was something of a guilty pleasure for me.
That brings us to this proposed film on Vikings.....
I am of a multi-cultural heritage. Part English, and part Irish. But also part Viking. You see, somewhere back along the line, my people on the emerald isle got pillaged. And that's where the Viking blood comes from. My father has taken special pleasure in recounting this aspect of our family history, and holds it as a point of pride. And really, he's right. The vikings were pretty amazing. They managed to simultaneously embody both the epic explorer and the berserker warrior. They "discovered"** North America long before Columbus, and their reign ushered forth unparalleled advancements in havoc and devastation
Ever since my Dad regaled me with tales of my Norse ancestors, I've always had a vision in my mind for how they would look and act. Just as I had formed a mental picture of Ancient Rome through the study of Classics. But unlike the triumph of HBO's ROME, no viking film or television miniseries event had ever brought the vikings I saw in my minds eye to the silver screen.
I've always wanted to see a Viking film that would "tell it like it was", and not gussy it up with florid faux Shakespearian dialog, or incongruous chivalry. But such a film could be daunting to audiences raised on King Arutur, so I lost hope for seeing the vikings done cinematic justice in my life time
this film seems like it could satisfy a long held dream of mine, and I have to admit this sounds totally cool. Where as I never even could have fathomed shooting a viking film in a dead language, Mel thought of it. Perhaps in this one instance, Mel Gibson's mental illness will prove to have great film making utility.
As for Mr DiCaprio? Well I'd love to see him tackle the role (and the Norse tongue). I've become quite a fan of his, and over time developed an abiding respect for the man's talents. He has grown as an actor over the years, and consistently picks challenging material***. While I do feel he was wrong for the role in GONY, I am glad he got the chance to impress Scorsese. The AVIATOR is one of my favorite films of the past ten years, and the work DiCaprio turns in is gripping from beginning to end. I must have watched that movie 75 times last year, and not once did it fail to thrill.
Oh, and he mastered a difficult accent while commanding the screen with an unequaled intensity in Edward Zwick's BLOOD DIAMOND.
So I would be more than happy to have Leo star the main Viking. Despite his controversial heritage for such a role, I think he'd do the Norse proud. And judging by Blood Diamond, the dead language thing might not be a totally insurmountable obstacle (for his talented vocal coach
)Mr Littell, take a note: Vikings... the way of the future?
In conclusion, I am pretty psyched for this. Psyched, but with reservations. I know that given the time period and the continent, there will no doubt be gratuitous Catholic nonsense. That is to be expected in a Mel Gibson Joint these days. But I will swallow that bitter pill, and do it gladly, if it means getting at last getting that perfect Viking film, the one that would both repulse and fascinate my inner 8 year old.
*Yes yes, that's just what I perceive it to be. Feel free to disagree
**There were already 25 million people in North America anyway, so technically no one discovered it except for the people who crossed over from Siberia 15 000-25 000 years ago
*** Unlike Will Smith