The Black Robe

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Posted by Eric Smith on March 25, 1999 at 16:55:24:

I know this may be a silly question to ask in this venue, but has anyone out there seen "The Black Robe"? I think it is a totally excellent and extremely well-done movie.

Although it received a lot of criticism at its release for its portrayal of Indians and Europeans, I thought the story and characters were much better than other filmes, i.e. "Dances with Wolves" (although I am a big fan of the Bison hunting scene).

I think the strength of LOTM and The Black Robe when it comes to the interaction between Europeans and Indians is in the impartiality of the films. We are sad for Chingachgook because he is the last of his people, not necessarily because his people are Indians. At the same time, LOTM shows no animosity toward the Hurons. They are just the guys to watch out for (because of their actions, not their identity). On the other hand, in Dances With Wolves, the Sioux are the nice good people who sit around and tell stories while the bad Pawnee and bad Americans are out killing people and ravaging the countryside. The prejudice in that movie ruins its story (IMHO).

The Black Robe is written the same way, and two scenes come to mind (bear with me those of you who are unfamiliar with the film): The first is when the jesuit priest is trying to explain the advantages of going to Heaven, and the indians he is with laugh at him - the cultural context is incompatible and communication with understanding is impossible. The second is when the jesuit priest and his party are being tortured by Hurons, (I paraphrase here, sorry) "These Hurons are terrible people" a young Frenchman says, "No," the Iroquis chief answers, "if we had captured them, then we would be doing the same thing." The movie didn't take sides, it just told a story.

Anyway, bravo LOTM, and if you haven't seen "The Black Robe" go see it. It's very well done, and the scenery is magnificent.


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