In our continuing series of ‘47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams‘, we look at Ridley Scott’s dark take on the New World: 1492.
Medieval Spain is a harsh place. The Inquisition burns heretics at the stake and following the fall of Granada, the most Catholic Majesties reign confident in their pomp. An Italian sailor with a bad temper and a yen for exploration seeks funding for his latest venture: an attempt to find a Western passage to India.
Following the success of Thelma and Louise, Ridley Scott managed to get financing for this bold historical epic. Competing with a lighter and more swashbuckling take on the Columbus story (starring Tom Selleck as the King of Spain), 1492 is a strange beguilingly dark and twisted historical piece that gets lost and tortured but turns into something quite extraordinary somewhere along the way. It’s a big budget companion piece to Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: Wrath of God and – although not as fully accomplished as that masterpiece – has much to recommend it.
Featuring a rare English language performance from a hulking Gerard Depardieu as well as sterling support from Sigourney Weaver and a growling Gothic villain in Michael Wincott’s Moxica, the film is a Conradian take on the savagery at the dark heart of the civilization project. As ideals of adventure and discovery give way to murderous injustice, conquest and vicious exploitation, 1492 is an epic deconstruction of the usually benign heroic take on what for many populations actually represented an apocalypse. A score by Vangelis and Scott’s sumptuous visual style make this an unforgettable film.