Another film that Gary recommended (he recommended Traveller’s and Magicians) was Black Robe about a French Jesuit priest in the 17th century who goes to Quebec to convert the Native Americans to Catholicism. It is directed by Bruce Beresford who also directed Driving Miss Daisy.
It’s beautifully done. So many of these films make the Native Americans out to be saints or the Catholics out to be saints and this one does neither. Instead, it does a wonderful job of showing how courageous the French Catholics were in coming to a foreign land to try and convert a people while at the same time showing how this courage was also hubris (the opposite of reverence – see Woodruff’s Reverence, Renewing a Forgotten Virtue).
They may have meant well, but they had absolutely no understanding of the people they had intended to convert.
A wonderful conversation occurs between Father Laforgue and Daniel (his companion):
Daniel: “But they are true Christians. They live for each other. They forgive things we would never forgive.”
Father Laforgue: “The devil makes them resist the truth of our teachings.”
Daniel: “Why should they believe them. They have an afterworld of their own.”
Father Laforgue: “:They have no concept of one.”
Daniel: “They believe that in the forest of night the dead can see. Souls of men hunt the souls of animals.”
Father Laforuge: “It is childish stuff.”
Daniel: “Is it harder to believe in than a paradise where we all sit on clouds and look at God?”
This is a sort of turning point for Father Laforgue, played by Lothaire Bluteau, whom I loved in Jesus of Montreal (and why Gary recommended this film to me.)
It’s the story of a culture clash – how two very different cultures who do not understand one another consider the other’s ways to be evil. (A story that continues to be very much alive and well today.)
The winner gets to tell the story, of course. The winner in the Americas was Christian domination. But that does not mean the story that is told is reality. It is only the story as told from the view point of he who conquered. His Story (history).
And that is not to say that the loser was completely innocent of any wrong doing. Only that their story has it’s own point of view and is not necessarily the one told from the point of view of the “winner”.
This movie does a wonderful job of displaying the culture conflict without glorifying either side. Both are demonized, both are glorified, both are seen as heroic. Human beings.
Thanks again Gary! Wonderful film.