Peru at the Movies: The Royal Hunt of the Sun

August 26th, 2010

Ali Ryder presents the fifth in series of articles, Peru at the Movies. Did you know there are dozens of films that either take place in or heavily feature Peru? Some are locally produced by Peru’s independent film industry, some are products of Hollywood, but each in some way revolves around the very special country that is Peru. Get planning your Peruvian movie nights!

The Royal Hunt of the Sun, 1969 (English, directed by Irving Lerner)

By Ali Ryder

Royal Hunt of the SunIn history, Francisco Pizarro invades Peru, captures the Inca Emperor Atahualpa, who then promises a room full of gold if he is released. He makes good on his promise, then Pizarro kills him anyways. The Royal Hunt of the Sun is a movie that focuses on this particular series of events. Generally it is just assumed that Pizarro is a huge jerk, but this movie chooses to portray Pizarro as a wise, likable fellow, who forms a friendship with Atahualpa while he is imprisoned.

The Royal Hunt of the Sun is a really old movie, that’s based on an even older play. Likely because of this, it’s not particularly accurate in certain respects – for example, their depiction of “the Indians” as primitive. Atahualpa’s portrayal is also quite odd. Although the point of the movie is to show him as a human being, someone who is likeable and fairly well-matched to Pizarro, he randomly barks or purrs or screams to, you know, show how Indian he is.

The costuming is also pretty terrible. There was essentially nothing in the movie that you might have seen if you went back in time – the Spaniards certainly didn’t look like conquistadors and the Incas didn’t look Peruvian. However, the set design was really amazing. The buildings that they were in certainly looked like Inca structures, right down to the trapezoidal doorways and fine masonry. At several times during the movie I found myself looking closely to see if it was actually filmed on location in ruins in Peru, and the answer was that I didn’t recognize the particular ruins but it could have been here.

The story was pretty good, I thought, but you’ll have to watch it to see what you think. A note on the story: the movie indicates that Pizarro’s on his third trip to Peru when he meets Atahualpa, but really it’s the first thing he does on his first trip. Other than that, many elements of the story are scarily accurate, especially at the end. There was even a quipu that guest starred in the beginning of the movie, which was pretty exciting.  Overall, it’s a fun movie, although keep in mind that it was made in the 1960s when you watch it.

I can’t find a trailer, but you can actually watch the whole thing on YouTube, here is the first part of ten:

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