Analysis Essay, Research Paper
The epic voyage of Columbus has been a conscientious topic in recent times. People debate whether Columbus was responsible for the devastating effect that came after his discovery of the new world. In my opinion, Columbus shouldn’t be held accountable for the impact of western civilization to the new world. Director Ridley Scott recreates Columbus’ voyage to the unknown in his movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise in celebration of his 500th anniversary in the discovery. I feel that the main theme in this movie is that war and destruction is in man’s nature. Gerard Depardieu leads the film as the visionary Columbus. Also starring in the film are Sigourney Weaver (Queen Isabella), Armand Assante (the treasurer Sanchez), and Michael Wincott (the nobleman De Moxica). Although the movie seemed like it would take an eternity to finish, Scott leaves his trademark of stunning visual effects and an incredible musical score which help me see through the movie to the end.
1492 starts off with Columbus and his young son Diego resting in a beautiful rocky beach. Columbus is peeling an orange while instructing his son to watch a ship at the horizon slowly sinking away. He explains to his son why the ship slowly sinks and disappears into the horizon and uses the orange to describe how the earth is round. The movie continues on which Columbus is invited to a scholarly hearing to decide whether or not his “crazed” idea in finding a quicker route to the fabled empires of Asia by going west is conceivable. He tells them that he has calculated the exact distance to which the scholars were for the first time intrigued by his notion. However he has been refused but one man by the name of Sanchez agrees with Columbus. Sanchez gives Columbus a chance to speak to Queen Isabella but without the help of a banker, in which the Queen owes a favor to, he gets his commission to finance his travels.
So begins the historical voyage of the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina to the unknown Atlantic on the third day of August 1492. After many long uneventful weeks out on the ocean the crewmen started to get agitated and many wonder if Columbus’ navigation and his calculation of the distance were an error. Plus the long days of being stranded out in sea with no wind to push them further west fueled their suspicions to the verge of mutiny. Columbus gives an inspiring speech and by small chance of fate the winds pick up again. Eventually the three ships catches site of land which was one of the most breathtaking scenery in the movie. The fog slowly reveal the lush tropical island of Haiti.
They make contact with the natives and the Spaniards were all too eager to massacre but Columbus treats them equally to his men. He quickly makes friends with the natives and journeys back to Spain leaving some of his men while bringing a couple natives and their treasures back to Spain. Delighted with the return Queen Isabella establishes the title Don Christopher Columbus and sets sail back to the New World. Columbus discovers that the men he left behind have been brutally killed but he did not retaliate, at least not immediately. He sets a small government ruled by him and his two brothers. The few noblemen who accompanied him were caught off guard to let such savages get away with a murderous act. Little by little as the nobles grew tired of Columbus’ ways of treating the natives equally they decided to take matters to their own hands which led to the death of De Moxica, the conspirator. Saddened by the news of the mainland being discovered Spain saw no need more need for Columbus and Queen Isabella sends another to replace Columbus and was quickly thrown into prison for the deaths of the nobles.
Columbus was pardoned after spending some time in prison Queen Isabella gives Columbus another chance to go back to the New World. The movie ends as his son Diego, now more mature asks his father what he saw. He writes into his journal while the movie flashes back to memorable scene where Columbus sees the island for the first time.
Screenwriter Rosalyn Bosch conveys Columbus as an enlightened individual. It may be bias because the movie was made for the celebration of this great discovery. Though a bit bias, in my opinion, the movie did an excellent job in keeping the historical events. Columbus was represented as a kind, intelligent man who was very devoted to find a quicker route to Asia by going west. Depardieu was very much devoted to this film, I think that he played Columbus with passion that truly added to the character. Though Armand Assante could have played a more believable Columbus, Depardieu added a little humor to the film. Roger Ebert describes Gerard as a huge, shaggy, and dogged form, just like the kind of man who would get an idea in his head and refuse to surrender it.
No one is truly sure what Columbus’ motives were, except that he was trying to find a route to Asia. As far as we know, he could’ve been an entrepreneur. Later as the movie progresses, Columbus is further portrayed as a “civilized commoner and anachronistically wise,” as the critic Christofides puts it. For example, he treats the natives there with the same respect to his own men. Another example would be that when he found his men massacred he doesn’t retaliate and seemed like he dismissed the whole notion all together. Furthermore, script writer Roselyne Bosch acknowledges that her take on Columbus may not be politically correct but is historically credible. Although specific historical events are very much intact in the movie, it would not be a good source of information for one who wants to learn more about the life of Cristofo Colombo.
No matter where man is, war and destruction is sure to follow. As long as there are differences with other men I feel then that there could never be a “true” peace within the human race. The noblemen’s mentality to the natives were that the natives were considered savages and treats them lower than the noblemen themselves. This idea has been around for a long, long time. Whenever man has the power to do what he pleases he usually disregards his moral stature. I’m not saying that every man does that. It would be ludicrous to think so but history has shown men who have abused their power and in 1492 it has displayed this theme well. De Moxica would never set his standards to those of the navies so political corruption takes place. Columbus tries to set an example by treating the natives equally but in my opinion this type of equality was way ahead of his time. Columbus should not be considered as hero, but should have the respect of a great explorer. But since this movie was in celebration to his 500th anniversary to his discovery, Columbus was viewed as a wise man ahead of his time.
The sets in the movie is just awesome. From the beautiful Castle in Aragon, the lush pastures where Columbus was taken shelter, and the unforgettable first site of Haiti, all had a very profound effect to the movie. Without these majestic sceneries I don’t think the movie would have been really worth watching. It would just bore me out. These scenes helped add to the realism.
The musical score also very much helped the movie carry on. With its right mixtures of angelic singing and new age jungle music and really helped set the mood for the movie. Vangelis is a noteworthy composer who’s style of flamenco guitar and synthesized effects helped the film significantly.
Although Columbus led to the discovery of the New World, the Spanish conquistadors has nearly decimated the native population of the Americas but in which created a new hope for people who had been persecuted in Europe. With his courageous effort in proving that the world was round not flat, western civilization has spread further west.