23 October 2006

The Theology of Chocolat

A black and white morally straight town is hit with a splash of red when single-mom Binoche moves in with her daughter to open a chocolate shop. In the end, an elderly woman remembers what it means to live, the town learns to crave chocolate and love, and the heroine learns to trade her nomadic lifestyle for the dangerous commitment of love.
This movie follows the philosophies of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard with their themes of truly living life (and for Kierkegaard, the Christian life specifically) rather than following the cold rules. The town enjoys a nice life. The people follow a strict set of rules and live safe lives. But the boy never learns to play. And the battered woman goes unnoticed. Just keep following the rules. The townspeople miss the music of the “river rats,” fearing their “immorality.”
Enter Binoche. This is a woman generous of herself. She knows the joy of living and of loving, and she wants to share that secret with the town. She takes risks. She faces rejection. She befriends the outcasts, and she changes the town. The townspeople learn to laugh and love and play and dance. They learn to enjoy life.
I love the use of color in this movie: the contrast of the gray, stone town to the color of Binoche, her chocolate shop, and the river rats. And what female could deny the association of chocolate and love and life?
It saddens me that in this movie, the dreary grays and harsh rules represent Christianity rather than Binoche representing Christianity, for we, as Christians, know the secret of the joy of living and loving. Binoche turns mourning into laughter. Too often, though, we as Christians hide the secret of life in rules and safe grays. Now, I am not advocating complete anarchy. I agree that rules are a necessary. No one wants murder and burglary and adultery. No one wants a life of hurting others. But we do want a life of love.
Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” I think we forget the life. I think we forget that we are about true life and freedom and joy. Maybe truth is not so much in the rules, in the do’s and don’ts but in the life and love. It means taking horrible risks, I know. It means throwing away what is “safe.”
But isn’t this more fun?


Michelle Pendergrass said...

I can't find anything more beautiful in life than taking a risk on a person. Sometimes I'm let down horribly, sometimes I'm lifted heights unimaginable. Sometimes both at the same time.

There is no beauty in safty.

Jeanne Damoff said...

I LOVE that movie. Such a visual feast! I finally settled on Chocolat as the one movie I could best compare my novel to in my proposal. To me the "ministry" and healing Vienne's chocolate shop brings to the town symbolizes the way art can be used of God to reveal freedom to a world starving for beauty. True, she doesn't stand for Christianity. But her art works for me as a metaphor for bringing life back into a dead system. The Christians in the town don't abandon their faith, after all. They finally learn to enjoy it. :)

Erin said...

I thought Chocolat was also very well done. The scene where the legalist minister finally "enters" the chocolate shop is so striking as a picture of what being stifled under the law can do to us.

(I also loved the secret ingredient in the chocolate confections- hot peppers. Shee-haw! Bring it on, baby. Please, let's add a little sanctified spice to our Christian walk.)

Another excellent, EXCELLENT movie for us stuck-in-the-mud Christians is, Babette's Feast. One of my favorites.

Michelle Pendergrass said...


Is this another I have to add to my list? I swear, I haven't seen anything.

R.G. Ryan said...

The soundtrack alone is a work of artistry. Cheri and I listen to it often as we are falling asleep.

And then there's Johnny Depp doing a passable impression of Django Reinhardt on "Minor Swing." Nice!

R.G. Ryan said...

BTW...on the 28th, vox will be open to anyone who wants to comment...not just members.

I'll be posting about our adventures in Barcelona on vox, so check in.

Pamela said...

I'm glad I saw the movie FIRST before I read the book. Usually the book is always better. Not this time. The movie is fun. The book was dark.

L.L. Barkat said...

Hey now, have you been pillaging my favorites list? :)

Heather said...

Yes, this is on my top 5. I could watch this everyday. Others: When Harry Met Sally, The Godfather (who can resist?), Gladiator (even though I know it is historically incorrect). I'm leaving the fifth position open right now because I can't narrow it down.
And, I'm not sure why I referred to Vianne by the actress' last name (Juliette Binoche). Hm.

michael snyder said...

Great take on a fabulous movie.

Jennifer said...

The greyness can also show legalism. There is nothing wrong with chocolate in itself, right? Yes, we should learn to be obedient, and moral, and yet still enjoy our lives.

I did enjoy that movie, although I only saw it once. I also really enjoy When Harry Met Sally (many times), and how about Life is Beautiful? Joy interwoven with painful life that cannot be beat. And even though I am not a fan of subtitles, you have to watch the Italian subtitled version, not English dubbed to experience the joy of his, "Princepessa!" (forgive my bad Italian spelling).

sage said...

I now need to go back and watch the movie again--I know I saw it, but didn't write anything about it. Thanks for the review

sage said...

actually, I haven't seen it, i was thinking of another movies

Robin said...

Ooooo, I saw it long ago, but what stayed with me is the beauty in the broken. Plus, I just like to say the name en francais, it's more fun that way, n'est pas?

But, your points are well taken, and your "review" makes me wanna rent it again.

As far as Jesus living, though, the manGod showed us how to LIVE....out loud! He loved completely, He was generous with Himself, He invested in people, He spoke truth, He challenged the status quo, and He liked a good meal and a good party. It's not lost on me that His first recorded miracle is making TONS of wine at a wedding. Fully realizing the cultural context of drink, I still think He's making a point today.

Anonymous said...