Black Robe- 1991; Directed by Bruce Beresford
Too often great films are overshadowed… by inferior productions with slicker marketing, more funding, and appearances by A-list stars. Such is the case with Bruce Beresford’s moving tragedy, Black Robe. Released the same year as the stunningly inferior Kevin Costner vanity piece, Dances with Wolves, Beresford’s haunting epic is now relegated to bargain bins and syllabi of Colonial American history courses.
Black Robe tells the tale of a 17th century… French Jesuit and his journey deep into the Niagara frontier to a Huron mission. Cultures clash as the Priest struggles with his own faith during the difficult process of converting the natives. Father LaForgue (Lothaire Bluteau) is trusted into the care of Algonquins who must guide him on the dangerous mission. The ensuing journey tries the beliefs of both the indigenous cultures and the Europeans- exposing their vulnerabilities with the harshness of pre-colonial North America.
The film is meticulously researched …presenting authenticity in everything from weapons, customs, to native dialects. Whereas, Dances with Wolves portrays the laundry list of politically correct platitudes and simplistic mythology presented as all-too-convenient fact- Black Robe is frank; both brutal and poignant in its interpretation of a wondrous and tragic period of history. Few films have so accurately captured indigenous culture. Beresford’s underrated masterpiece stands as a testament to the historical and cultural potential of film.