The Naked Prey (movie Review)

Published: 2021-06-29 07:07:04
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The Naked Prey (Movie Review)
By Jack Frydenlund

One movie that continues to resonate throughout this course is the film The Naked Prey (Paramount Pictures, 1966), produced and directed by Cornel Wilde, who also has the leading role. Wilde portrays an unnamed British colonial guide living in the wilds of Africa. As the film opens Wilde has been hired to lead a group of rich arrogant big-game hunters on an elephant hunting expedition. Although the guide maintains his professionalism in carrying out his job, providing his services and following the orders of his employers, one senses his own deep fascination for the African wilderness and notes his repulsion at the hunter's bloodlust, particularly as expressed by the leader of this troupe (played by Gert Van den Bergh) who can barely give his rifle a rest. From that point on the film takes on a greater dimension as it depicts the horrifying fallout that occurs when conflicting cultures and worldviews collide.
The hunters inadvertently enter the territory of a particular tribal group (possibly Bushmen, although this is not made clear), and are soon politely confronted by some of its members for the intrusion. Wilde's character, who seems to be familiar with this group and knows a little of the language, addresses the small band warmly, acting as the hunter's liaison. After some discussion he advises the hunters to pay homage to this tribe, apologize for their intrusion, and give them an offering of gifts. But the lead hunter, totally outraged at their impudence, refuses to give the tribe anything and ends up insulting the band before sending them away. Although Wilde advises them against such an action, warning them that "they could give us a bad time," his warning goes unheeded and what follows is a disturbing scene whereby the tribesmen return en masse, capture and seize the group of hunters, and subject them all to various humiliating and excruciating deaths -all except for Wilde, who is offered a chance of survival whereby he is stripped naked and weaponless, and set loose upon the African wilderness to be hunted down by these tribesmen, and hot on his heels. The movie then becomes a tale of cat and mouse, reminiscent of Richard Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game, wherein Wilde is challenged to survive his pursuers and the African wilderness as he makes his way toward safety and the colonial fort.
The major themes of the film center on the problems associated with enculturation and intercultural interaction, and whether the two terms are mutually exclusive. As Matsumoto and Jang's book, Culture & Psychology, so aptly notes, "because our cultural filter and ethnocentrism create a set of expectations about others, communicating with people whose behaviors do not match our expectations often leads to negative attributions" (pg. 241). The film poses the question as to whether we can have more than reverence and respect for one another and actually get along with other people and cultures; or if enculturation itself creates a barrier that makes isolation inherent, thus making compatibility impossible due to the specific and unique landscapes that one is adhered to. One must remember that this film was made during the Vietnam War, the Cold War, various insurrections throughout South America, and numerous African uprisings and rebellions.

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