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Black Robe - please comment below

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Film Review: Black Robe


Film Info


110 minutes

Director Bruce Beresford's abiding fascination with the clash of cultures is apparent in this adaptation of Brian Moore's novel of a Jesuit missionary who leaves France in 1634 to bring the word of Jesus to the Huron tribe of rugged northern Quebec. The film, which stars Lothaire Bluteau as LaForgue, casts aside the revisionist notion of the Native American as an enlightened being, superior to Caucasian interlopers, depicting the Huron world as one of ugliness and harshness. The missionary's arrogance blinds him to the Indians' preference for their own religious rituals over the faith he is attempting to thrust upon them. Yet, in his new proximity to nature and exposure to primitive mores that shock him, the priest begins to feel the bonds of his asceticism and question his faith. Finally, after being captured and tortured by a party of Iroquois, he begins to evince the compassion with which the conversion of the Hurons becomes possible. The tragic ramifications of this process are only revealed many years later. Bluteau is excellent in this bleak film, which includes some of the most meticulously researched representations of Native American life ever put on film.
Following the film, we will have a discussion on the following topics:
Describe the French settlement
Describe the Indian settlements
Discuss the relations between the Algonquins and the Huron
Describe the character and values of the Black Robes
In what ways does this movie give you a better understanding of an Indian point of view of this period of history?


[Justin Wilmott, jmw23@geneseo.edu, 9/21]


The Black Robe


The Black Robe is a feature film that can double as a useful tool into discovering information about the Native Americans around the time of the formation of Quebec. What I liked about the film is how the relationships between the Black Robe and the Native Americans played out and were portrayed. Even though they had opposite view points in religion, they were still able to work and live together, a value I believe we need to see more of today. Also, I believe this film should be treated as a source a few steps above Wikipedia. The fact The Black Robe is a feature film brings up suspicion into the accuracy and the bias of the information portrayed in the film. For example, is it believable that the Iroquois enjoyed torturing their captives to the extent that they were portrayed in the film? Without further research I find it hard to say it is. However, I do believe that this movie, much like the movie 300 with all it’s mistakes, is important, if nothing else, to educate the public about events that actually took place, and a story that they might not have known about.





[Steph Aquilina, sma8@geneseo.edu, 9/23]


Film: Black Robe


1. When the movie first started, I was struck first by the fact that it was a reenactment of times over 350 years ago. Obviously, this period of history was not available for proper filming, but I felt skeptical about the ethnographic accuracy of its portrayal. By the end, it was obviously staged as a feature film, which (while very entertaining) left me questioning its integrity, considering all of the characters were paid actors.

2. The spiritual contrast between the Native Americans and the colonists was very interesting. The cultural boundary caused significant misunderstandings but eventually, it felt as though universal values of love and respect were revealed to exist within both, and each wished to please the spirit forces they felt were so prominent in their lives. At the end, Black Robe followed the Indian girl’s request that he leave them and go off on his own, according to her recently deceased father’s dream – after all, “a dream is real. It must be obeyed.” His compliance led him to his own spiritual salvation, as the head of a church to which the tribe living in that area soon subscribed. Dying off without apparent reason, these individuals were desperate to gain health and understanding amidst such unfamiliar change.

3. In the beginning, the priests seemed to want to convert the “savages” despite any opposition, seemingly only to fulfill their own purposes. However, at the end, Black Robe confronted the head priest at the village with the wisdom he learned from his recent travels and experiences– Blind faith is contrary to their true mission: The Indians must understand their faith before accepting it. END



[Brendan Ryan, bmr4@geneseo.edu, 9/23]


Black Robe


While I don't think that this film should be considered scholarly or as the definitive work on the Huron Indians, I do think that it is an engaging and informative descripition of a transitional period in North American history.  I'm relatively ignorant about the true nature of the events that occurred in the film so I can't comment on how accurate it was in that regard.  However I did think the story was told from an interesting perspective that tried to be sympathetic to the Native Americans while at the same time not villafying the colonists.  If there was one thing that I really liked about the movie it was that it stayed neutral and didn't judge the motives of any of the characters in it.  One of the main themes that I read in the film is that everyone deserves at least the attempt to understand them, their culture and their beliefs.  Something I didn't like though, is that I'm not really sure the Black Robe really undestood this at the end.  It seemed to me that he more just gave up on the Native Americans; he gave up trying to understand them and he gave up trying to help them understand him.  He had a superior attitude throughout the film and at the end just accepted it as a fact that maybe they weren't advanced enough to comprehend the importance of what he was trying to tell them.




(Cameron Mack, cfm6@geneseo.edu, 9/25/07)


Black Robe


My first impressions of this film were not good. I thought it was going to be a cheap outsiders view of classic struggle between Native Americans and the colonists. I slowly changed my opinion as the film wore on, however. While the film does show some seemingly incorrect or inflated generalizations, it does clearly express the views and concerns of each side without bias, or at least that is how I took it. Viewers are able to relate to the Colonists, the Black Robe, Daniel, the Huron, and I thought even the Iroquois (as grewsome as they were). The one part where the film seems to go out of control is upon the capture of the Black Robe and Huron by the Iroquois. Their violent tendencies and ability to be so blood-hungry made me question the authenticity of the film. There were lines in the film justifying the violent behavior, saying that all Native Amercans defended their land with such methods and what not, but that behavior was never shown from the Huron. I still believe that this film is worth watching, but not necessarily as a scholarly source on the interactions between tribes and colonists. The director used sex in a way I was not expecting, as well. If the film is correct, the Native Americans where highly influenced by sexuality, which I was not aware of. I think the director became a little loose with his interpretations of the past, but used them in an effective manner as to make the film more viewable for audiences. Black Robe does gives us a good message at the end, which seems to be that it is not our duty to actively attempt to change cultures that we believe are living in an evil or bad manner, but rather to show hospitality or even pity and offer assistance only when absolutely necessary. I thought that was the somewhat modern message translated through a classic tale.



[Laurie Sadofsky, las22@geneseo.edu, 10/1]


Film Review: Black Robe


1. Black Robe is so confident in his religion and culture that he puts a barrier between himself and the people he is trying to convert.  You cannot convince a person to believe you if you make no connection.  Something many missionaries experienced was the language barrier seen in the film.

2. Although the Iroquis may have been a violent tribe, the cruelty of this tribe is probably exaggerated for the audience.  There may be a basis to the vicious actions portrayed because the Algonquin chief stated that each group and its leaders must appear strong in order to keep face and prevent possible attacks in the future.

3. I like that Black Robe questions his faith and his purpose. Similarly his truthfulness with the Hurons at the end shows he has a real concept of what he can achieve and how to connect to the people in front of him. He also attains a renewed conviction and determination to his cause and spreading the word of God.  Although I am not a fan of the conversions imposed on the Native Americans, if the trust they put in the religion of the whites gave them hope, that is a good result.





[Shamiran Warda sw11@geneseo.edu 10/07]


Film Review: Black Robe
1.       I must say at first this film seemed very unentertaining for I felt I was about to fall asleep through it. However, as more of the story unraveled I got more interested to see what would happen next. I was hoping for a better ending but I guess I will just have to do with what I got.
2.       What I found the most interesting thing about this wonderful film is how the Native Americans interpret their dreams and how much it means to them. For instance, before the chief died, he told his daughter about his dream and how black robe (a priest) was seen traveling alone; and towards the end of the story the daughter insisted Daniel not to go with black robe because her father had seen only black robe traveling alone. The dreams were the way of life for these people. It was something that they valued and appreciated greatly, which too many of us might be hard to understand.
3.       Another aspect that was kind of interesting was how black robe was determined to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. He never gave up in his faith even when the natives continued to follow their ways. What was surprising was how towards the end the Huron Native Americans thought baptism would help them cure from the spreading fever that was wiping their people out and therefore decided to convert and get baptized.

[Anne Kim, ak13@geneseo.edu, 10/11]


Black Robe



1.       I found the film to be very interesting because it portrayed the different culture and religion between two completely different cultures. It was interesting to see the reactions of the different parties when they were interacting with each other.

2.       It was interesting to see Father Jean Laforge become obsessed with the need to evangelize his own religion. Father Jean Laforge showed that his God was the only God and that his afterlife was the only afterlife.  His stubbornness drove him to madness and closed mindedness allowed him to see nothing else.

3.       I thought that the character who was father in training really saw the Native Americans for who they were. For he explains to Father Jean Laforge that the Native Americans have their own religion and beliefs; and that it is not necessarily wrong to follow them just because it is not the Christian ways.



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