The Mission, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 704

Essay

Introduction

The film of ‘The Mission’ was produced in 1986 and achieved the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for the Best Film category in the Oscars.  The film was written by Robert Bolt and directed by Roland Joffe and starred Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro.  The film tells the story of the Jesuit Missionaries who were trying to convert the local South American Indians to Christianity.  Noted for the haunting music of Eric Morrison’s the film starts off in dramatic style showing a crucified missionary attached to a cross plunging over a spectacular waterfall.  The early impact illustrating the dangers and consequences of being a missionary at this time. The man being a Jesuit Priest who had been sent upriver to convert the Indians. (film4.com, 2012)

The Plot

The Jesuit Priests in the period of 1750 were under the protection of Spanish Law and arrived in South America with the Spanish in order to bring Christianity to the native Indians.  The mission was based upon saving souls and converting pagans to the spiritual salvation of Christianity.  The land was later transferred to the Portuguese who wanted to enslave the natives in order to make them work on plantations.   Father Gabriel (Irons) set out to convert the Gurani Indians to Christianity by establishing a mission amongst the Indians. He gains acceptance amongst the Indians by his seductive clarinet playing.  He builds a trading network with another Jesuit community further down the river. He is helped by a repentant slave trader (De Niro) who has killed his brother and seeks redemption. He helps the priests in the establishment of the mission.

The film attempts to demonstrate the earnest endeavours of the Jesuits who attempted to raise the education, cultural awareness and spiritualism of the Indians. In this sense they were honorable people but influenced by Spanish colonial politics and a clash of ideologies between the Spanish and the Portuguese concerning the native people.  It was shameful that the Portuguese wanted to enslave a native people and in some regards intrusive of the Jesuits to think these people wanted or needed Christian teachings. Whilst the Jesuits in honest terms attempted to improve the life of the Gurani they were equally interfering with a native people that had not reached their scale of evolutionary development and had forged out their own lives surviving in hostile terrain. The Priests were often misunderstood and branded as evil and witches.

The Mission is a metaphor for the colonization of South America in so far as the Jesuit influence lasted 150 years before they were finally expelled.  They were highly influenced by Spanish political agendas and the colonial development aspirations of the King of Spain.  The Spanish Administration used the Jesuits to influence the colonialisation of the natives and force them into reductions or settlements where they could both govern and control them.  The Missions were not only for the religious conversion of the natives but also to provide settlements of labour that set about doing the bidding of the Spanish masters.  The Portuguese had a more direct policy of just enslaving them and placing them into forced labour camps. (decentfilms.com, 2012)

The Directors of the film attempted to portray the atrocities and futility of the times.  The Jesuits were the spearhead of the Pope and Vatican policy of bringing Christianity to the New Worlds. They were caught in the different political agendas of the Portuguese and Spanish Governments.  There was in addition a moral crisis between the Cardinals who attempted to serve the Vatican and the different political agendas that ran counter to the religious mission.  In instructing the Jesuits to abandon the Guarani it was akin to making them abandon their souls and the breaking of their holy vows.  The Jesuits were also forbidden to take up arms, no matter how dire the circumstances, they were there for provision of spiritual guidance and as such were not in a position to resist the brutal slavery policies of the Portuguese.  The Mission is extremely thought provoking in the consideration of mans inhumanity to man and the corruptive influence of politics.

Works Cited

decentfilms.com. (2012, 9 26). The Mission 1986. Retrieved from decentfilms.com: http://www.decentfilms.com/reviews/mission

film4..com. (2012, 9 26). The Mission (1986). Retrieved from film4..com: http://www.film4.com/reviews/1986/the-mission

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