Tuesday, 15 September 2015

I've Just Seen: The Mission (1986)

The Mission (1986)

Director: Roland Joffe

While complex portraits of religion and faith are not alien to European cinema - Bergman, Dreyer, Tarkovsky all explored such ideas with great insight - American cinema seems to rarely attempt such interrogations of faith. This is one of the reasons The Mission is a bit of a revelation (pun intended). It explores the gulf between institutional religion and individual faith, as a small mission of Spanish Jesuits work to convert and help a community of Guarani people in South America.

There are several layers of complexity in this story: the Jesuits are part of the colonisation of South America, but their clear love and care for the people complicate the image of meddling foreigners. They stand with the Guarani when threatened, opposing the wishes of the Portuguese and the Catholic Church, who have opted for political gain over love and justice. However, Cardinal Altamirano is aware of the goodness of the missions, and even imagines that the Guarani would rather everyone just let them be. There is also tension between two of the monks, one who's background is as a slaver and fighter, while the other believes in passive resistance and gentleness.

I really enjoyed this film; like Quiz Show there is an intelligence here I feel is missing from many modern films. The score is one of the most beautiful you will hear, written by Ennio Morricone. The main theme is lovely, a hopeful yet also melancholic piece. Not matter what your religious beliefs are, I think you will appreciate The Mission.

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