The Black Robe is definitely a great movie that has a lot of symbolism with history mixed in. It’s mainly about how the French’s, referred as the Jesuits are trying to colonize the Natives. It is important to understand the ways that the French and the Natives see each other. The French see the Natives as savages because they are not civilized. They don’t know how to read or write, and they want to teach them how to be able to read, read, question themselves and also show them to work in an organized matter. When we think about organization we are really talking about time. The Natives did not measure their things by time how the French did and that is probably why they referred to the clock as a demon. The most important thing is that in order to civilize the Natives, the French’s want to convert them to Christianity. In the other hand, the Natives see the French’s as demons because the power they have of reading and write and also because of how they try to impose new systems to the one they already have. Taking a further step and analyzing what the black robe symbolizes or represents to the natives we can see that is a symbol for something unnatural, making the French seem as unnatural witches. For the Natives, the black robe makes the Jesuits ignorant of the powerful spirits that the Natives themselves see at work in the natural world.
When we took a look into how the French’s and the Natives see the natural world around them we can see the big difference of perspectives they both have. For the Natives the forest was more than a bunch of trees. The Natives believed that in the forest at night the dead can see the souls of men hunting the souls of animals, so they really had a big appreciation for the natural space that surrounded them because it played an important part on their religious beliefs. For Father LaForgue (the Priest trying to convert the Natives), this type of belief was ridiculous. He believed that when the Natives convert to Christianity they would then be completely civilized because in order to completely civilized someone you have to change or “civilized” their beliefs to the ones you are imposing.
Another big difference that really played an important part in this movie is how the source of knowledge for both religions are so different. For the Natives the power and Knowledge comes directly from the forest and from their dreams. For them, the dreams are more than just an image, it is more real than death or a battle. In the other hand, we have the Jesuits. Their power and knowledge come from spreading the gospel and having people convert to Christianity as how they were trying to do with the Natives. Jesuits also use the power of writing and reading as a method of sharing knowledge and the gospel.
Not all The French’s feel the same about civilizing the Natives. Against Father LaForgue, there is a young explorer called Daniel. Father LaForgue thinks the natives should be civilized and he tries by all means to impose Christianity to them. That is not the same perspective that Daniel have. Daniel says that he is not a Jesuit, and he defend the Natives when Father LaForgue says that he is afraid of that country because the peoples heart and mind (Referring to the Natives) are controlled by the dental rules. Daniel starts to have another perspective of the Natives and he immediately responds that they are true Christians because they live for each other, but not only that, he says to Father LaForgue that they also forgive things that they would never forgive. Father Laforgue thinks that is the Devil that makes the Natives resist from converting to Christianity. Daniel also defends the Natives by establishing that is not necessary for the Natives to convert to Christianity because they have their own after world. But for father LaForgue, converting the Natives to Christianity was a big issue since was the only way to civilized them.
Definitely for Father LaForgue’s understanding of conversion depends more on right belief. He is always trying to make the Natives convert to Christianity and to accept Jesus in order for them to go to heaven before they die. Basically, imposing what he believes over what it should be the right action. At the very end he really converts the Natives to Christianity but the Natives payed the price. Fifteen years later they got killed by other Natives for their beliefs.
This movie is very good in offering another perspective of how the colonization was. It is strong in some scenes, but we have to remember that it was probably worst in reality. I really enjoyed learning how the Natives and the French’s have different perspectives on religion and how they French civilized them, not only physically but religiously as well.