14 November 2007

Movies and Theology--The Mission

Perhaps everyone in the free world has seen this but me, but I can’t resist a few comments. Excellent, excellent movie. Superb acting with Jeremy Irons, Robert DeNiro, and Liam Nielson. And the area is beautiful--the dangerous but gorgeous falls reflecting the love and calling of God. (Side note: not too long ago, a missions conference was held there as a tribute to the Jesuit's work.)

It’s the story about western civilization in Brazil. Spanish and Portuguese settle in Brazil. At the time, it was Spanish territory, though originally populated by the natives. The Portuguese government supports slave trade. The Spanish doesn’t, although the settlers freely engage in it with their Portuguese neighbors. The Jesuit missions stand between the natives, who are being captured and sold, and the westerners, who are doing the capturing and selling. The Jesuits may not have done everything right—they taught the natives to sing western music (beautifully so) instead of teaching them to praise God with their own music, and their Catholic theology imposed penance for forgiveness. However, they set up plantations that belonged to the natives so that the money made from the plantations went back into the natives’ communities. The Jesuits sheltered the natives from the unmerciful mercenaries. And they incarnated Christ’s love through martyrdom, art, and teaching. Through their lives, in other words.
The movie picks up when the boundary lines are redrawn putting the Jesuit missions in Portuguese territory. The Portuguese don’t like this. Neither do the Spanish. Jesuit missions prevent slave trade, and their plantations combat with plantations that put money into western pockets. The question is: will the Church support the government or not? The pope sends a cardinal to evaluate the situation. In truth, the cardinal comes to persuade the Jesuits to close their missions.
What I love about this movie: in the midst of cruelty, in the midst of the failures of the Catholic Church to protect and serve and love, the Jesuits shine as an example of people committed to loving the Lord and loving their neighbor. It’s beautiful to see a group of priests, each fighting in different ways, standing firm in their beliefs and to see the transformation in their lives because of it.
It's ironic, seeing this movie at this time in my life. The Jesuit priests stood firm, fighting for the people not knowing what would happen to them, not knowing if God would protect their lives or if the tribe would survive or remain steadfast in Christ. Still, the stood. No guarantee exists to tell me, yes, if you keep working hard, God will use your writing and speaking in this way. All I can do is stand firm.
One thing that bugged me in the movie--the music was beautiful, but the main tune reflected a twentieth century sound rather than fitting in chronologically.
If you haven’t seen this movie, put it on your Netflix or Blockbuster account. You need to.


Karmyn R said...

I remember the Mission being one of the most depressing movies I ever saw - just the futility of it all in the end. At least that is how I remember feeling.

Christianne said...

Oh my gosh, I love this movie and adore this soundtrack. Sometimes I blare it in my house real loud, just to let it invade my soul even deeper! Not being the musical buff that you are, the out-of-century-sync blew right past me. Great review!

Jenn said...

I'm sorry--in spite of the fact that there are many seminal films I have never laid eyes on, I just have to say: YOU HADN'T SEEN THIS BEFORE?!

I read a really lousy review of it somewhere recently (facebook, I think), but I'm glad *you* liked it.

Robin said...

I haven't seen it, but in your Heather-L'chaim way, you make me wanna....

I'll add it to the (growing) list.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Not only have I not seen it, but I've never heard of it, so count me clueless!! I'll look into it now.

Real Live Preacher said...

Yeah, that's an amazing movie. Love it. own a copy.