DIRECTOR: BRUCE BERESFORD
COUNTRY: CANADA/AMERICA (1991)
MUSIC: Georges Delerue
CAST: Aden Young, Sandrine Holt, Lothaire Bluteau
SUPER FEATURES: SCENERY. Seems quite believable as history.
I liked THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, and couldn't resist checking out this film, since I am a bit of a history buff, in film anyway.
The BLACK ROBE is about the first Christian soul drivers to hit Canada in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Some of them made it, because they were honest and cared, but others suffered because they were more forceful and were not used to the way of the Indians in the area.
The main character comes to the new continent and is going to be assigned a tribe that his predecessor could not succeed, and lost an ear because of it. In the process, as he travels to the area where he must go, he makes friends with a thief, who becomes his helper many times. And this thief also gains an affection from an Indian girl, which doesn't sit too well with a few Indians, but she goes her way because she is intelligent, and makes her own decisions. And here the first fault of the Indian is shown, in that he tends to OWN, and dominate the women, and this girl has become westernized in that she has changed.
Through out the film, a few Indians tease the black robed Jesuit priest, who has secretly fallen in love with the same Indian girl, only to find out he has no chance, for which he flogs himself. Another sore point with him is the diminutive medicine man who keeps making fun of the black robed man's beliefs and his moods, only to prove true in the end. The medicine man is harping all the time, and gets out voted once, about the Indians coming to believe another god, or set of beliefs, which will destroy him. In the end, the tribe that wished to be baptized by the black robe, believed that it would absolve them of their 'sins'.....and the film's final caption states that they lived ten more years and were annihilated by their enemies after that, without a fight. This was the point of the little man. He said that the new beliefs would make them lesser men, and that they would lose sight of themselves........and they did.
The film is odd, in that it sticks by the western man's thinking, until it knows that the cause is almost lost, and that the only chance for survival
is to join forces as a stronger force. But belief in the westernized God did not make the Indians stronger men, or women, it made them weak, and less of a 'hunter' and 'survivor' in an area where the terrain, the weather, and the opportunities are few to survive by one self.
Aside from being a sad film about the fall of the Indian folklore, belief system, and the rise of the western man in Canada, it is a very well
directed, and faithfully represented film, that does not say where the fault lies. A bit on both sides, I guess. The Indians could have learned a few new tricks, but didn't need to change their very own beliefs in life and living, whereas the European counter part accepted nothing but total acceptance, which may have been the real problem.
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