"I don't normally address other reviewers in my reviews, but in this instance I believe the reviewer from Arizona who gave this movie a one star rating to be totally off base. That, and the fact that he posted two one-star reviews to bring the totals down for an international award winning film. I've read de Vaca's account, and it is indeed a great tale, which is why I was so looking forward to this movie's measuring up to the original narrative. I was not disppointed in the slightest, although naturally the movie doesn't portray all the passages from the account. It's evident from every frame of this film that the filmmakers invested a great deal of love, energy and artistry to their task. Director Echevarria gets the utmost out of his outstanding cast. The Spaniards and the Native Americans are entirely believable, and the film depicts one of the most authentic representaions of Native American cultures I've seen on screen. The only film that comes close is Last of the Mohicans. It's definitely a case of the good, the bad and the ugly. The clash of cultures couldn't be represented any better. Juan Diego as de Vaca is a revelation. He should have been up for an Oscar for his performance. The dwarfish villager who first vividly menaces and later befriends de Vaca has to be one of the most memorable characters in recent cinema. The same can be said for the village Shaman, also an exceptional performance. From the credits, it is evident that the Mexican Government had a hand in funding the filming of this movie. It is well that they should have, as this has to be something of a national treasure. Definitely disregard any negative comments about Cabeza de Vaca. It's a great film about an amazing man, whose courage and fortitude may have been unmatched in the annals of European exploreration of the New World. This is decidedly a must-see.BEK"
Fascinating and Entertaining
C. Conway | Texas | 02/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Complaints about how this film departs from the original memoir are unfair for two reasons:
1) In order for any historical film to stand on its own, it needs to mess with the original and find its own truth and shape. Film is art, not history. The question is: does this film entertain and fascinate us? It does!
2) Cabeza de Vaca's memoir is full of gaps--he doesn't go into detail about alot of the things he experienced and how he survived. For example, in the span of one chapter (a few pages in his memoir), he tells us that several years have gone by. Thus, the film makers had some flexibility with regards to being creative. In fact, Cabeza de Vaca states in his preface to the king that he is intentionally leaving things out for the purpose of brevity. Also, there was another reason not to spill all the beans-- in light of the Inquisition, there might have been experiences he left out on purpose.
This is one of the finest films about the Conquest of the New World ever made. Don't miss it. If you enjoy it, read the original story."
Brilliant art movie (in a terrible DVD rendering)
Asger Harlung | Denmark | 01/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cabeza de Vaca is a Mexican movie about a conquistador who survives a shipwreck and ... well, no spoilers here...
Since "Cabeza de Vaca" is a multiple times awarded Mexican movie, any expectation of epic Hollywood-style action means that one didn't pay attention. Looking at "Cabeza de Vaca"'s background, one can only expect expect an intellectual effort in a "foreign" style. If you watch the movie on that premise, it clearly delivers:
"Cabeza de Vaca" may be compared to - 1) "The Mission" due to its narrative style, using pictures rather than words for large parts of the storytelling, 2) German director Werner Herzog's cinematic style, especially in "Fitzcarraldo", and 3) John Boorman's "Excalibur" for its' strange story with supernatural elements and glimpses of sudden violence.
All in all, "Cabeza de Vaca" is a highly recommendable "artistic movie".
The only possible point of criticism is the DVD rendering, which is nothing less than terrible. It's in 4:3 format with English texts that can not be turned off, and are placed almost in the middle of the picture - and the picture quality is not exactly a state of the art DVD rendering either. Shame on the publisher for making an edition of such a movie look like a DVD conversion of a cheaply made rental VHS. I looked for this movie for several years... and I'll keep looking for a decent 16:9 version.
The five stars are for the movies' own qualities, but other customers should be warned that the rendition quality itself deserves a straight zero. A widescreen VHS would be better. "
The Most Under-rated Movie Ever
Walter W. Lyford | Miami, FL United States | 05/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie in Miami, FL when it was newly released. It electrified me but I was disappointed that it did not create a huge sensation. It should encourage people to read the original writings of Cabeza de Vaca on his prodigious wanderings. He is one of the greatest explorers ever!But this movie goes much deeper into his and our collective unconscious. It is not merely a factual description of his trip across the North American continent but a journey into our mental and spiritual make up.Shipwrecked, captured and sold to the tribal Shaman, the mighty European Conquistador is reduced to the fetal position on the shores of the New World.But it is his deep and sincere Christian belief that makes him a potent Shaman himself as he is trained by the master and the two powers merge.There is plenty of indictment against the narrow confines of the Church and the brutality of the conquest. The Native Americans are depicted as mostly noble, perhaps primitive yet organized and in harmony with nature. There is a scene in the desert SouthWest where they appear like Buddhist monks as they inter the first to fall to the bullet on this continent.I have seen the movie once or twice since 1992 and can't wait to get the DVD to further study the film and get any extras it may provide."
Wonder filled movie
GHT | 02/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cabeza de Vaca, Spanish nobleman looking for riches and adventure, ends up with much more adventure than he planned for. A journey for gold turns into a harrowing spiritual journey, a twisting torture of his soul and beliefs.Face to face with barbarians, de Vaca must face his own nature and ultimately the barbaric nature of the Spanish Conquest.A beautifully shot movie - the melange of tribal cultures that de Vaca encountered on his wanderings is well portrayed, and as de Vaca goes from slave to shaman to the next meal back to holy man, etc., this viewer was caught up in de Vaca's spiritual journey - how survival and spirituality spring from the same place for many of us.Juan Diego masterfully portrays de Vaca's spiritual trials and tribulations - a man adapting to what he had to adapt to to survive, almost losing himself in the process, reborn almost unrecognizable to himself.This movie reminds us that culture clashes are really clashes of souls, an always timely message."