Over at Kultureblog I have a review of Apocalypto. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, comparing it to several popular action movies. But the obvious question lurking in the background is how Mel Gibson’s film will affect how we look at the Book of Mormon. Now Kultureblog is not really a Mormon blog, even though there are a few Mormons on it. So don’t discuss Mormonism there. I thought one of the other blogs might broach the topic while we here at M* were undergoing our transition. But no one did, so let me throw out the question to your if you’d seen Apocalypto as to how it affected how your visualize the Book of Mormon.
Let me say in advance that whatever the merits of the movie, I think it’ll be a watershed for getting lay members to think of the Book of Mormon more in terms of the FARMS limited geographic model (LGM). One problem that frustrates me to no end is that folks still have this tendency to think of the Nephites as quasi-Romanesque Europeans. Part of that is, of course, due to Arnold Frieberg’s painting. (Which always have me thinking of Arnold Swartzenegger – even the women look like Xena warrior princess) However as John Sorenson noted decades ago, the Nephites would have been traditional middle eastern looking and fairly unlike the Europeanized Jews of today. That is they would have been shorter and much, much darker than lay members think. More or less they’d have looked like what we see in Apocalypto.
For myself the best part of the movie was the trip to the city. The upper class with their dresses and jewelry immediately made me think of the passages in the Book of Mormon regarding fine clothing and setting oneself apart. While I think it entirely appropriate to liken the scriptures to ourselves and our own class divisions, I strongly suspect that we were seeing something in Apocalypto more in line with what the Nephites and Lamanites encountered. Of course the Book of Mormon doesn’t mention human sacrifice. But the blood lust of the characters in the film probably does correspond to both the Nephites and Lamanites – especially in the end of the Book of Mormon.
Of course Apocalypto is taking place more than 1000 years after the end of the Book of Mormon. So one should be careful. But I do hope this transforms how even short films about the Book of Mormon are made.