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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Europe encounters wilderness in nature and in the soul, 9 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Black Robe [1991] [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Black Robe" is the film "Dances with Wolves" might have been if Kevin Costner could have faced up to the bleakness, the ferocity and ambivalent human conduct engendered by the North American wilderness. A European priest travels into the trackless Canadian interior on a mission. The mission is to save souls but conventional European wisdom seems inadequate to change the indwelling spirit of the land and its people. Despite the immense distance of his journey - both geographical and spiritual - he perseveres to his goal. On the way he explores the extremes of barbarity and beauty, betrayal and loyalty, aimlessness and commitment. He is transformed and prevails not by words or dogma but by self-sacrifice. This film is thoughtful and earthy, inpsiring and demoralising all at once. A silent canoe ride into the heart of darkness Conrad visualised in Africa. But instead of finding just "the horror" at the heart of darkness he also finds shining light - does the light come from the depth of his own imported faith or from the spirits animating his new world? Brutish violence and cruelty intermingled with purity and piety. Watch and be drawn into the endless wilderness of your own soul....
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black indeed....., 17 Oct 2011
By 
Josh "The Claw" (Wherever I'm needed) - See all my reviews
This film follows a Jesuit missionary into the forest wilderness of Canada, a journey dangerous to both body and soul, to reach a remote mission where native americans have killed the previous priests. With clashes of culture and religion, without choosing sides or making judgements, the director guides us through the experiences, realisations and choices the characters make. He shows us the terrible repercussions, as well as the human cruelty, bravery and compassions, that the people's actions incur. A powerful 'into the heart of darkness' epic, truer than 'Dances with Wolves', more focused then 'The New World', it really makes you feel like you've seen what it was like to be there (helped by beautiful photography and stunning scenery). Not to be missed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Noble Savage, 17 Feb 2011
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This is a grimly realistic film of colonisation of New France. The film manages to cover a lot of the life of that colony while avoiding (by a considerable distance) the DANCES WITH WOLVES cuteness. The priest sets out with some Algonquins to go to the Huron Mission up river under instruction from M de Champlain. En route the different modes of thought between Catholic French and Pagan Algonquins are well covered (the concept of dreams as reality for example). The party travels through some rough old country and the inevitable meeting with Iroquois results in a good set of action scenes. This may be arthouse but it can also do rough-house. At the Huron Mission the locals hover between killing the priests and getting baptised (often in the same take). There are no heroes and villains, the strangeness of the two sides is amply covered when each groups comments on the other. One wonders if this was what it was like for St Augustine in Kent (with somewhat better weather).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harsh, honest view of the clash of two cultures, 8 Feb 2012
By 
K. Gordon - See all my reviews
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If Bruce Beresford's `Driving Miss Daisy' suffered from a softened, Hollywooden view of history and racial conflicts,
the bleak, beautiful sometimes horrific, always uncompromising `Black Robe' is its correlative opposite.

Set in the 17th century, both the Native Canadian people, and the French Jesuits who come to bring then religion
(when they already have their own, thank you very much) are presented as deeply flawed, cold and cruel at times,
blind to the complexities of each other's humanity.

Yet both are also touched by moments of kindness and understanding that lead to the sense that this story of one
Jesuit's torturous trip with a band of native guides is not without it's growth for all involved.

Most critics were mixed on this, and I understand their objections, though I don't share them. The film is distant
emotionally, and we never really get inside any of the characters, even the titular priest, called `Black Robe' by the
native people. The film is more illustrative than dramatic. Again, the exact opposite strengths and weaknesses of
Beresord's `Driving Miss Daisy', which was full of wonderfully moving characters, but lacking honest context.

But I found the historical context here, and intellectual insight, the suspense inherent to the story, along with the
physical beauty of the locations and the sharply honest insight into the Native universe enough to be always engrossed
and interested, and ultimately quite moved.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Robe, 27 April 2010
By 
James Duran (Galway, Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I was very happy to be able to get this DVD. I saw this film years ago in the theatre and never forgot its images. On seeing the film on DVD, I again enjoy the breathtaking images and the fascinating recreation of life in those times, particularly among the native Americans. I have to say, though, that the characterization seems one dimensional and the treatment of the theme simplistic at times. I credit the Jesuits with more intelligence and understanding of native cultures than the script writer does. (Contrast the treatment of the Jesuits here with that of the film The Mission.) Nevertheless, it is a stunning film, and deserves to be seen.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Hollywood glorifications here just raw beauty and harshness., 4 Jan 2008
This review is from: Black Robe [DVD] [1991] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
This film based on Brian Moores novel depicts the rugged 1500 mile journey undertaken by Jesuit priest Father Laforge(Lothaire Blutheau) in order to convert what are seen as the savage Indian tribes living in the remote interior areas along Canada's St.Lawrence River in the mid 1600's to Christianity and away from worshipping their own gods and images.These tribes are mainly the Huron and Algonquin and a group of Algonquin reluctantly agree to help him complete his journey.One dangerous hazard soon begins to face him and his helpers after another which leads the Indians to question whether what they are doing is angering their Gods,Laforge to question for the first time if he will ever complete his mission.Extremely good acting,especially Sandrine Holt in her first major role.Beautiful scenery
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No heroes, just nature and the search for truth, 28 Aug 2009
By 
Bruce Beresford is a humane, sensitive director, who might be described as ruthlessly even-handed. He is concerned with culture clashes and outsiders, and he transfers the same concerns he exhibited in the marvellous "Breaker Morant", this time aided by a bigger budget and spectacular scenery. Comparisons are often made with "Dances with Wolves", but that's like comparing "The Man Who Would be King" with "Carry On Up the Khyber". Central to the film is the relationship between the whites and the Native Americans, and Beresford is always alert to both the atavistic force of difference, and the subtleties. As the priest journeys into the heart of darkness which is the unknown wilderness of Canada, for the first half of the film it is possible to see it as a simplistic "White Man bad and stupid - Indians good and unspoilt". But the shock of meeting a tribe devoted to slaughter and torture sets all values on their heads. The Indians who are captured in this episode are entirely accepting of the role of violence in the balance between tribes, even down to this extreme. The Christian priest, stripped of everything, has to go beyond the goal of converting them, to loving them. The tribe converts to Christianity with the declaration of love, and a sardonic postscript shows they were wiped out by enemies fifteen years later. This is not at all an easy film, but it has volumes to say about colonialism of all kinds; whatever your personal journey, you can't escape the tyranny of the side you are born on. It doesn't quite achieve the cinematic poetry of "Breaker Morant", but it offers a much more detailed, ambiguous and mature critique of the white man's intrusion into others' space, and some delicious comparisons between the superstitions of Catholicism and those of the native Americans. Performances are all unshowy and full of integrity. Should be required viewing for all theology students.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Robe DVD, 30 Dec 2009
By 
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This review is from: Black Robe [DVD] [1991] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Had this film on tape and it broke. Was very happy to see it on DVD. If you want to really grasp what it was like to live in French Canada at the beginning of the colony, that is the film to watch. The wild shots of St Lawrence River are actually the Saguenay River which retains the wilderness of years ago. Highly recommended. I love it and watch it over and over.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Desert Experience in the Canadian Wilds., 27 Mar 2012
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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Aussie film director Bruce Beresford has made a couple of westerns during the course of his career. The first official Australian/Canadian co-production "Black Robe"(91), and then the entertaining made for TV movie "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself"(2003). I was impressed by the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon for a film that I had not seen before, and was intrigued by the period setting on the Canadian frontier in 1634. Surely it had to be worth a watch, and it most certainly was. I will add another positive review to those already posted.

"Black Robe" has erroneously been compared with "Dances With Wolves", a film it bears no resemblance to. That film tended to look at the west through overly rose tinted spectacles, whilst this one focuses more on the naked savagery of an untamed wilderness. In that respect it has more in common with films like "A Man Called Horse" and "Man in the Wilderness". A Jesuit priest is sent to a remote Catholic mission in a Huron settlement to help in the conversion of these people to Christianity. The priest is accompanied by a young Frenchman and a group of Algonquin Indians. The group set off in canoes to penetrate deep into the Canadian wilds. Shot majestically on the Sanguenay River region, which substitutes beautifully for the St Lawrence River, the cinematography is very impressive indeed. It is not long before culture differences between Indians and Europeans begin to create difficulties, and mere survival becomes even more important than converting the natives.

One has to admire those early missionaries to what were often unknown tribes in the early frontier days of white colonisation. They were often the pathfinders and many met martyrdom in their fervent efforts to spread the gospel. I recall that very moving opening scene from "The Mission" when a priest tied to a wooden cross is sent over a huge waterfall to his death by jungle tribesmen. Whilst they may have brought God to the wilderness, they also brought the white man's diseases like smallpox which wiped out whole tribes. They were also introduced to the dubious delights of alcohol. Even today evangelists work amongst indigenous peoples spreading the Christian word. Sometimes the natives of remote regions paid a high price for their new found faith. It is this big theme that Beresford explores in his film.

The priest in the film follows in the footsteps of Christ when he is tested by the Devil in his own desert experience. Celibate he struggles with the open sexual practices of the Indians, but shows he is a man strong in faith, even if that means thrashing himself with a few branches. The script by Brian Moore taken from his own book is certainly not as in depth as "The Mission" which dealt with similar issues, but is sufficient given the more minimalist approach. The closing scene asks an important question about the nature of love, which is perhaps the key to the heart of this film and also gives cause for optimism in an otherwise rather bleak film. Whilst the film may not engage as pure entertainment, it is an impressive piece of movie making and an important new addition to my collection. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic, 8 April 2014
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I have just watched this for the first time and found it to be a stunning original film.It is set in 1634 when a young priest sets out on a mission to convert an indian tribe,accompanied by doubtful indian guides ,who regard him as a possible Demon.Based on fact,it is an epic adventure against all the odds,well worth watching.
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Black Robe [DVD] [1991] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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