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Marlon Brando as Emiliano Zapata
I just finished watching a film entitled Viva Zapata, and it starred Marlon Brando. I have heard of the Academy Award winner on many occasions, but have only seen a couple of films that I can clearly remember. This one I will remember for several reasons. Not only was the entire cast of actors really good, but the story line, taken out of the pages of actual history was tremendously enriching.
First the film was produced in Black and White, and was brought to the “Silver Screen in the year 1952, which is most possibly why it was a Black, and White film. Mr. Brando makes this film come alive playing the role of Emiliano Zapata with passion and courage in the pursuit of freedom for his oppressed people. The story included mystery, intrigue, deception, betrayal, and so many other immoralities as it sets a focus on the Mexican Revolutionary conflicts of that day and era. There was a scene, a very passionate, yet unusual scene in the film where a young Mexican boy was asked what did he want. The young boy was first offered a small puppy, and the boy refused. Again he was asked the boy what did he want, and he pointed to the highly prized white stallion of Zapata. Zapata says to the boy, that “the horse is a very good horse”; to which the young boy whispers to an adult representative standing beside him, that he knew it was a good horse and that is why he wanted the horse. Surprisingly Zapata obliged him and gave him the horse. A gesture equal to today’s “giving the shirt off of one’s back”, and showing a great deal of charity, humility, and kindness. This scene would be revisited later in the film and play a very important role in how the film-maker concluded this production.
The film-maker also portrays several historically based aspects into this production along with some fictional accounts. For instance, the film’s title highlights Zapata as a single heroic figure, and takes creative license in that, but the film-maker includes a bit of history that records Zapata and Poncho Villa joined forces to turn the tides against an evil dictator, who has little or no regard for the people of Mexico. The dictator is corrupt and a villainous dictator. History claims Zapata as a Mexican hero, not only because of his stern patriotism, but he had a heart of gold and was sincerely interested only in the welfare of his people, and not for personal gain. To most of Mexico he was an outstanding hero, but I have found not so much to other literary sources to have written or documented this story. I found a couple of other interesting points brought out in the film about the character Zapata, played by Marlon Brando. He was portrayed as a courageous, dauntless, poetic figure. He had integrity for his people and he was bound to honor in his quest for the liberation of his people and their lands. The character, at one point in the film, says to his wife that he could not read. I found this to be remarkable that a leader of a people would not have the literacy in presuming leadership. I having done a little research found out that was purely creative license, because it is a historical fact that he came from a family that was well-off, and afforded him an education.
The film was very heart felt, and moving; portraying a highly charged time in Mexican history. Whether fictional of historical this was indeed a very good film. It’s setting and supporting cast were excellent. The props and equipment used almost made you feel like you were there, even with the film being in black and white. The film touched on the tension of the Mexican political environment of that time, and also exposed the conditions of the people of that era.
It all seems like ancient history, and except for the memories of the hero’s that have fallen for us to remember, and to remember what they stood for, it’s good to leave the rest behind in our past. All in all I wanted to express what a good film this was, and it should be one any film collectors list of “must watch” titles. Also that Marlon Brando was indeed a superlative actor, with really good instincts in portraying characters in making films. I can only guess that in 1952, so shortly after the second World War, that there was a need for a distraction. The distraction then was to present in film, another war, and one from the past, and one that was distant to our own struggles of war. This, I’m sure, did the trick. This film brought you inside of those struggles and its action. It took the viewer through the conflicts with good acting. It also seems to create empathy, and if not, then sympathy for not only the people in their struggle, but for the characters in the way that they lived, and died. It made me even aware of the pride that other people can, and should have of themselves and their past. My hats off to the man and his dream of a free and emancipated people, who would be free from tyranny, oppression, corruption. A man so honest that he didn’t take anything from the people he freed, believing that he was one of them not to take undue advantage. A man so dedicated to his cause that he has buildings and commemorating artifacts throughout the country in his honor. Marlon Brando and the entire cast helped to realize all of this in 113 minutes.
The film ends with the ambushing of the Mexican hero. This is indeed a very sad moment of the film. The scene depicts a great deception and betrayal of Zapata. The young boy, who earlier was given Zapata’s white stallion, was standing along side the horse, and in the middle of a circle in the center of town. Surrounded by two-story buildings on the entire perimeter, and sharp shooters on every one of the buildings. As Zapata arrives at the gate of the city he is met by a General, and as Zapata extends his hand in greeting, the hero is eagerly embraced with both arms, and the hero is warmly hugged by the General. Zapata sees both the boy, and the horse, then asked, “where was the horse and boy found”. As the hero starts to Move closer to the two, the boy let’s go of the reigns, and hands the lead to Zapata. The General, who was near, but not too close also starts to shrink away. You as the viewer can sense what is about to happen, but Zapata seems oblivious.
As he looks around, and looks up, he then sees men suddenly appear on the roof tops. No one give a signal to shoot, but the men all instinctively open fire all at once, creating a hail of bullets, thus causing Zapata to fall to his knees, where our hero in that position dies. His body now is picked up by order of his betrayer; his most trusted friend and aid, to be taken to the center of his own home town, and left on a drinking well in the center of that town. The purpose being to discourage the people from believing on his cause. But that plan back-fired, right there on the spot, as followers began to spread rumors of his invincibility and immortality. This signifying that the spirit of the hero still lived. I know and realize that I am giving away quite a good bit of the plot and ending, but I have always believe that seeing it for yourself counts the most. So find it, or blow the dust off of your copy and watch this again, I think it will be well worth the time.Write by spiderman hoodie