a film written by novelist Brian Moore
, directed by Bruce Beresford
, set in 17th century Canada
Black Robe is what the Quebec Indians call Father Laforgue, a French Jesuit on a 1,500-mile journey up the St. Lawrence to replace another priest in a Huron mission. Samuel Champlain, the French explorer and governor of Quebec, pays a group of Algonquin to protect and guide Laforgue. Their alliance is strengthened by the Algonquins' covetousness of iron weaponry and tools, cloth, and mirrors, the French's need for guidance for survival through the wilderness, and their shared fear of the Iroquois. Laforgue is not necessarily concerned with conquest but the well being of the Algonquin. With the aid of a young translator and guide, Daniel Davost, and eight canoes of Algonquin Indians, Laforgue begins his quest to "save" the natives by converting them to Christianity.
Early in his journey, Laforgue's idealistic outlook for conversion clashes with customs and beliefs the Algonquin already possess. The Algonquin suspect Laforgue of being a demon because of his abilities to read and write, how he makes the sign of the cross, and his impatience with their ideas of an earthbound afterlife complete with sex and tobacco.
Later on Laforgue is abandoned by the Algonquin, captured and tortured by the Iroquois, and deserted by Davost who falls in love and stays with the Algonquin chief's daughter. When he finally reaches the Huron mission, he learns of the murder of the priest he came to replace. While Laforgue retains his commitment to Christian beliefs, he eventually comes to love, respect, and empathize with the Huron who are later ravaged by the plague. In desperation, the Huron ask him to perform a group baptism which Laforgue agrees to, although knowingly under false pretenses.
As a movie I saw my second year in college, during a class called The World and the West, the supposed realism in Black Robe illustrates the conflicting beliefs and world views held by the French Jesuit and Native cultures, without degenerating or idealizing either one with romanticism.