The Black Robe - Native American Movie Listing
Black Robe is a very intriguing story about missionaries back in the early 1600s who are seeking to "civilize and tame" the native Americans. The incoming groups are settling in eastern Canada, and a missionary - called "black robe" by the Algonquin - wants to go up to Quebec to help with conversions there. He needs a group of Algonquin to help him make that trek, as winter is about to hit. A local young man - one who can speak Algonquin and is looking for adventure - comes along as well.
As tends to happen in these movies, the guy falls in love with the chief's beautiful daughter, and the two civilizations slowly learn about each other. Black robe wows the Algonquin with the concept of writing, and the Algonquin teach black robe something about the meaning of sharing.
There are many interesting scenes involving Algonquin language, singing, dancing and the lovely outfits. There was a lot of effort put forth to make those things accurate. While some of the plot seems predictable, I found I could let that slide.
It's nice that there are no "good guys" or "bad guys" here. The missionary truly wants to help save the souls of the natives, and he's not taking the easy road out. He could have gone for a cushy life - and he's chosen to head into the frigid lands of a Canadian winter. He's hoping to bring peace and comfort to a group that is constantly at war.
The natives are pretty grey as well. They distrust the newcomers - but they are taking in the cooking gear, tobacco and other supplies. They agree to take black robe up to Quebec in return for supplies - but once they get the supplies (and extra tobacco as well) they take off on the missionary, abandoning him in a landscape that will surely kill him. When the young man chases after them in desperation, trying to remain with their group, one of the Algonquin almost shoots him. Only the chief's intervention saves his life. After some contemplation, the chief decides to return to get Black Robe and be true to his promise.
Things go poorly. The group is attacked by the Huron and captured. The Huron brutally torture them - but the Algonquin chief points out that this is normal and it's what the Algonquin would have done. The daughter sexually seduces a guard, then kills him so they can escape. As the movie winds to its ending, you find that nobody really wins in the land of fierce fighting, illness and harsh cold.
I really love movies that help to preserve the wonderful Native languages and songs. This is definitely a movie to watch, if for that reason alone - and of course for the gorgeous landscapes.
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