In the 17th century, a Jesuit missionary nicknamed Black Robe by the natives and his small party of companions try reaching the Huron tribe in Canada all while facing mistrust, Iroquois warring parties and harsh winter conditions.
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In the 17th century a Jesuit priest nicknamed Black Robe by the natives and his young companion are escorted through the wilderness of Quebec by a family of Algonquin Indians to find a distant mission in the dead of winter. Underneath the imposing and magnificent mountains, the Jesuit experiences a spiritual journey while his young companion falls in love with their Algonquin guide's beautiful daughter. Dread and death follows them upriver, however, as they face an Iroquois war party. Based on historical fiction novel.Written by
Keith Loh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to the Wikipedia website, this movie "...was the first official co-production between a Canadian film team and an Australian one". See more »
Near the end, Father LaForgue digs a grave fairly easily with only a shovel in what would clearly have been frozen ground in the dead of winter. See more »
[watching LaForgue give the last rites to a dying baby]
Watch this, he is going to cast a spell.
Oh God of mercy, please bless this innocent child...
No. He is talking to his God.
[making the sign of the cross]
... in nomini patri et fili et spiritu sancti...
See that sign? That's how they steal our spirit.
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This film made major concessions to political correctness in its portrayal of the Indians, who are depicted in a considerably more flattering light here than they are in Brian Moore's novel. This could also be considered the romanticizing "Dances With Wolves" effect. The novel drew some (unjust) criticism here in Canada for its uncompromising approach.
The actual history is fairly readily available. "The Jesuits in North America in the 17th Century" by the great American historian Francis Parkman is the standard 19th c. work on the proselytizing efforts of the French Récollet and Jesuit fathers.
Still, if you are not very familiar with the subject, this film is a strong, and quite gruesome, introduction. I'm not aware of a lot of films about the colonial period which are as tough. Not "Last of the Mohicans", or the adult westerns from the '50's, in my opinion. "Little Big Man", perhaps. Or possibly "A Man Called Horse", which I haven't seen. The priest in the story is a composite of actual missionaries, and the impact of this historical adventure thriller is heightened for me knowing that everything in this film happened, and often a whole lot worse.
The rights and wrongs, the pros and cons, of the cultural collision of Europeans with the autochthonous peoples are still too contentious, so I would rather not get into them. There is a lot here to brood about afterwards, and chances are good that you'll seek out a copy of the novel -- it's not very long, and a lot easier to read than James Fenimore Cooper. If you're American or Canadian, this is an important part of our shared past.
"Black Robe" is one of the very best Canadian feature films, with a solid cast led by Lothaire Bluteau with August Schellenberg and Tantoo Cardinal in support. The presence of an Australian director, Bruce Beresford, perhaps kept the film from turning into a well-meaning but dry Canadian history lesson.
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