It is May 1520 in the vast Aztec Empire one year after the Spanish Conqueror Hernán Cortés’ arrival in Mexico. “The Other Conquest” opens with the infamous massacre of the Aztecs at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. The sacred grounds are covered with the countless bodies of priests and nobility slaughtered by the Spanish Armies under Cortés’ command. The lone Aztec survivor of the massacre is a young Indian scribe named Topiltzin Topiltzin, who is the illegitimate son of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma, survives the onslaught by burying himself under a stack of bodies. As if awakening from a dream, the young man rises from among the dead to find his mother murdered, the Spanish in power and the dawn of a new era in his native land. A New World with new leaders, language, customs… and God.
Hollywood.com Says: You don’t have to go to the museum to view art.
“The Other Conquest” tells the story of Topiltzin (Damian Delgado), a fictional illegitimate son of Moctezuma, emperor of the Aztecs. Surviving 1521’s bloody invasion of Mexico by Hernando Cortez (Inaki Aierra), Topiltzin is captured and taken to a monastery for conversion to Christianity. Topiltzin must choose whether to honor his heritage and embrace the Aztec gods or accept Christianity. Christianity’s destruction of native Mexican faiths is movingly portrayed here, and we come to see the indigenous people’s eventual amalgamation of Catholic and Aztec deities. The film’s powerful imagery and Topiltzin’s compelling personal turmoil are potent and memorable components of the story. While some of the dream-like sequences might be a bit vague, the plot holds up well.
Delgado stands out as Topiltzin, playing a tortured, strong-willed individual who can barely comprehend how suddenly and irrevocably his world has changed. At his best, the fine line between actor and character is erased, and we are completely convinced of his pain. There are also some powerful performances here in the roles of Topiltzin’s capturer, Hernando Cortez, and Topiltzin’s brother.
Salvador Carrasco brings his disturbing vision of the conquest of the Aztecs clearly and cleverly to the screen. Though parts of the film drag, Carrasco elicits strong performances from his cast members, whom bring a commanding presence and intelligence to the film. Enhancing the fine direction are a masterful score and rich, glowing camera work.
An incendiary mix of politics, religion, war, violence and personal turbulence — not an easy film, but a complicated work of art.