Sunday, October 25, 2009


We rented the movie Chocolat this weekend. Yes, we're behind the times. Nearly everyone of the female gender and many of the male gender have already seen that movie and declared it the best movie ever.

It's a good movie, but we're not breaking into best ever territory. But it is a good movie nonetheless. It does much to continue my enjoyment of Alfred Molina and Judi Dench. But I figured early on that this was going to be yet another one of those movies that vilifies religion as the enemy of all things fun. In fact I suspect that this one aspect is the primary reason why this movie is the favorite of some.

This idea is only buried in the last few minutes of the film, but well enough that I believe it was not the intention of the script to make religion the villain yet again. After all, the real trouble was not the Church or its pastor. After all, Pere Henri was a secret Elvis fan, and was just as cowed by Comte de Reynard as everyone else. And once freed of the the Comte's domination he uttered the sermon that supposedly changed everything.

So it could be argued that the enemy was really The State, and the intrusion of The State upon religion. But that also would be too easy, really. Both the State and the Church were but levers of power by which the Comte tried to control everyone and everything. Ultimately the movie had nothing to say about religion--or chocolate, for that matter.

No, the movie was about life and the little dead-end alleys we get ourselves into and lack the drive, the courage, or the moral fiber to get ourselves out of. In this Vianne, the purveyor of chocolate who turns the town upside down, was just as stuck as everyone else. She could see others' problems quite clearly and was able to help them, but she was completely blind to her own. The opposition mounted by the Comte de Reynard only provided her with the excuse to continue as she always had; picking up her daughter and her life and moving off to the next town to solve more problems and continue ignoring her own.

There is much to be found in the movie. It is a tight, well-told story. It it story-telling done right. It is not anti-church or anti-religion or anti-sin or anti-anything, except anti-"stuck". It's just that the plethora of Hollywood dreck that takes the lazy road of vilifying religion makes it all to easy to view this movie as being just one more of the same.

This is a movie about people, and what lies in their hearts; what makes them people. It is about the ability of people to examine their lives and makes something different of them. It is about the ability of people to reach out to one another and help them to take that first step in remaking themselves. The truth in this movie comes from the fact that every single character suffers from the very same problem, even their would-be savior, and that every single person needs someone else.

Not a single character ends the movie the same as they began it, and with only a single exception all are better off for their interactions along the way. It's a lot like life, only better. And that's what good stories are all about.

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