1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE (1992)

Scene Analysis
Tape Two: 0:36:28

Dreamer's Disease: Beginning and End of Civilizations

by
Rosanny Bello

[1]  Most depictions of Christopher Columbus show him in the light of the “white legends” that revere him as discoverer of the New World.  Ridley Scott’s 1492: Conquest of Paradise is no exception.  The film’s last scene between Columbus and Sanchez (Tape Two: 0:36:28) serves as a further confirmation of his believed worthiness of veneration.

 [2]  Having left the Queen, Columbus encounters Sanchez, who scorns him for being a “dreamer.”  Asking Sanchez to describe what he sees out in the city, Columbus explains to Sanchez that the tall towers and pillars that reach the clouds, such symbols of greatness and civilization, were all created by dreamers.  Not only is he giving himself credit for the discovering of the New World, but also making a comment on how nothing can be done without having first been envisioned.  Dreams are what make things happen, and in believing this, Columbus is representative of the essence of the American Dream.

[3]  Columbus continues to give himself self-reverence in stating that Sanchez will have to live with the knowledge that “I [Columbus] did it.  And you didn’t.”  In the same way, Columbus perhaps is making a note that the Spanish nobility has no true power without the lower class.  These “dreamers” are evidently not the nobles with power, but the lower class who take their dreams and pursue them.  Columbus is here seen as the voice of the people, humbling himself down to the position of a common man, but, in doing so, having more power than Sanchez.

[4]  A major point that Scott appears to bring out through this scene is Columbus’s power or influence over figures of authority, in this case Sanchez.  Columbus approaches people in power with such an air of defiance, he gains power over his oppressors. When Columbus finds himself with Sanchez, he literally pulls him back and turns him around with a violent authority, determined to make Sanchez understand perspective.  At the end, Sanchez does not reproach Columbus’s argument, leaving Columbus with the last word.  As Columbus fades into the background, Sanchez, who has been Columbus’s protagonist till this point, is left to reflect on Columbus’s words and ultimately sees the influence Columbus does indeed have through his pursuit of his dreams.

[5]  This defiance of the hierarchy is also seen in the prior scene prior.  Sanchez asks Queen Isabella why she puts up with Columbuss’ rudeness, and she admits it is because he does not fear her.  Scott’s portrayal of this quality in Columbus emphasizes the strong point in his character, his unshakable ambition.  It is because of this determination that Columbus is admired, although he never actually makes it to his originally planned destination.

[6]  In a later scene (Tape Two: 0:41:40), Sanchez and Arojas stand outside and see Columbus from a distance, seemingly another old forgotten man among the crowd.  Arojas says to Sanchez, “What a waste of a life.”  In retort, the newly converted Sanchez answers, “A waste?  Well, if your name and mine is ever remembered, Arojaz, it will only be because of his.”  Again, Columbus is set as the initiator of the whole endeavor and worthy of praise for the work that he put into it, whether or not he achieved his original goal of reaching India.

[7]  However, this scene also brings into question the impact of Columbus’s “dream.”  How successful was Columbus, truly, in establishing a civilization worthy of being claimed by Spain?  And if Spain is this perfect civilization, as Sanchez seems to express in his passionate description of the city’s wonders, what is to be made of the heretics and how they are dealt with?  Is this not the same barbarism in which they felt the natives existed?  Although Columbus seems to take full credit for the celebrated aspect of the discovery, Columbus fails to see that he, in that way, takes full credit for the innumerable horrors that took place because of the discovery.
 
 

Copyright (c) 2002 by Rosanny Bello, Undergraduate Student at Lehigh University.

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