Film of the Month - October 2012
Films are an important feature of popular culture, but can they also be a vehicle for theological enquiry? Veritas thinks they can! Every month during the Year of Faith, we offer a Film of the Month, which we invite you to watch, reflect on and discuss. As an initiative for the Year of Faith, you might like to start a Year of Faith Film Club in your work, school or parish community where these films can be discussed and shared. Film reviews are kindly provided by Fr. John-Paul Sheridan PhD.
Film of the Month for October: The Mission
The Mission (1986) tells the story of a particular moment in the history of the Jesuits in South America in the eighteenth century.
It was directed by Roland Joffé, who also directed The Killing Fields (1984) and more recently There Be Dragons (2010). The story is based on true events, with the screenplay written by Robert Bolt, who had previously written the screenplays for such films as Ryan’s Daughter (1970), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and A Man for All Seasons (1966).
The film starred Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Cherie Lunghi, Aidan Quinn and Ray McAnally as Cardinal Altamirano. It also featured a young Liam Neeson in a supporting role. Another notable cast-member was the Jesuit priest and activist Daniel Berrigan, who played the role of Sebastian. The film was also noteworthy for its score, by the Italian composer, Ennio Morricone. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won one for Best Cinematography; it was nominated for eleven Baftas and won three, including Best Supporting Actor for Ray McAnally; it also won two prizes at the Cannes Film Festival.
It was filmed in a number of countries in South America, including the waterfalls on the Iguaçu River in Brazil, and had a budget of $24.5 million.
The Mission is based on the aftermath of the 1750 Treaty of Madrid when seven of the Jesuit Missions known as Reductions situated in modern-day Paraguay were transferred from Spanish to Portuguese control. These seven missions had been settled by Guarani tribes. The Guarani were one of the dominant aboriginal tribes in these areas. Before the time of the Spanish conquest, the Guarani were widely scattered throughout the area, living by hunting, fishing, and gathering plant foods. They built homes of thatched huts around a central area or plaza and slept in netted hammocks woven on simple, upright looms. In the first half of the sixteenth century, the Spanish came to Guarani territory in search of gold, and Jesuit missionaries came later hoping to convert the Guarani to Christianity.
The character played by Ray McAnally is depicted as a cardinal, but in fact is based on a Spanish Jesuit, Luis Altamirano, who had been sent to Paraguay in 1752 by the Superior General to oversee the transfer of the Missions. The character played by Jeremy Irons is based on the Jesuit saint and martyr St Roque González de Santa Cruz, who was canonised by Pope John-Paul II in 1988.
The battle which takes place at the end of the film is based on two different events separated by a hundred years: the Battle of Mbororé in 1641 took place when the Guarani attempted to protect themselves from slave traders and they were assisted by Jesuit missionaries; the second is based on the Guarani Wars of 1754–56, when they defended themselves against the armies of Spain and Portugal who were enforcing the terms of the Madrid Treaty.
The threat of suppression of the Jesuits, mentioned in the film, happened by the edict Dominus ac Redemptor of Pope Clement XIV in 1773.
- Power and eighteenth-century global politics
- Good vs. Evil
- Violence and Pacifism
For a film synopsis and questions for reflection, please click here.
You might like to read the passage from St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians quoted in the film. You might also like to use one of these two Jesuit prayers.
The Scout’s or Soldier’s Prayer
Dearest Jesus, teach me to be generous
Teach me to love and serve you as you deserve
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
save that of knowing that I do your holy will. Amen.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
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