The Lonely Centrist

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Friday Night Video: The Black Robe

We're on vacation and won't be watching tonight, but we've still got a recommendation for you. This week, we recommend The Black Robe, a 1990 film by Australian Director Bruce Beresford (best known for Driving Miss Daisy, but also the director of two other superb films we'll be reviewing soon: Breaker Morant and Tender Mercies).

The film is they story of a young Jesuit priest out to convert Indians in Canada in the early 17th Century. The movie is the most realistic portrayal of this time period ever done on the big screen. It thus offers tremendous insight into that unique era of history, when the forces of the old world were first meeting those of the new, and trying to come to grips with one another. Have you ever thought of what it must really have been like to go forth as a missionary into an almost unknown world, totally separated from one's own culture, reliant on others whose friendship and good will cannot be taken for granted, and whose customs are totally foreign (as yours are to them)? The noted medieval historian Norman Cantor notes that the movie could almost as easily represent earlier missionary efforts - "think of St. Boniface and the Frisians in the eighth century." A "fiercely accurate" portrayal of the late medieval church, and a fascinating story, all beautifully filmed in lush wilderness reprsenting Quebec of 500 years ago.

The film was brought to mind by a recent conversation with a friend. I haven't seen it in a while, but I intend to when I'm back in town. I wonder if, on reviewing, it won't have some message or insight into the similar clash of missionary cultures now occuring 500 years later, between Muslims and Christians.

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