Black Robe (1991)

The film “Black Robe” was released in the year 1991 and directed by Bruce BeresfordIt takes place in North America in the 17th century. Its main themes are colonization and culture identity between the Natives and the French. Though, there are underlying themes such as the sacred and the profane. At the beginning of the film a priest stated that “they are uncivilized… they’ve been out to adapt us, we must convert them.” It is per se a competition between the natives and the French to see who  converts who.

The film does well in juxtaposing that which is sacred and profane to both cultures. For example, before the voyage begun, the film went back and forth on singing and dancing rituals of the French and the Natives simultaneously. One of the most important comparisons was how, as the Christians referred to God and Heaven for salvation and guidance, the Natives referred to dreams.

Another subtle juxtaposition was that of the forest and the church when Father LaForgue got lost. It signifies that the forest has the same level of sacredness as the church does for the Christians. For that reason, the dead baby was placed on a tree, and when Chomina (chief indian) was agonizing Annuka (his daughter) exclaimed “the forest is talking to us,” which sets the forest as a place for death.

In the end, conversion was not as successful as it was intended. Chomina refused to believe in heaven because “his boys and women” would not be there. In an attempt to convince the Hurons to convert, a priest told them that only baptism would cure the fever that was killing them so rapidly. When that priest died, LaForgue took over. He clarified that baptism would not cure the fever but they “must ask for the help of Jesus, he may answer [their] prayers.” In desperation, the Hurons saw no other option than to baptize themselves. Sadly, within fifteen years, the Hurons were killed off by their enemies, they would not fight back.

Ultimately, I greatly admired the directors work in juxtaposing the two cultures to compare them.


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