The Mission (1986 film)
|File:The Mission (1986 film poster).jpg
Original film poster
|Directed by||Roland Joffé|
|Produced by||Fernando Ghia
|Written by||Robert Bolt|
|Music by||Ennio Morricone|
|Edited by||Jim Clark|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|October 31, 1986|
|Box office||$17.2 million(United States)|
The Mission is a 1986 British drama film about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in 18th century South America. The film was written by Robert Bolt and directed by Roland Joffé. The movie stars Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally, Aidan Quinn, Cherie Lunghi and Liam Neeson. It won the Palme d'Or and the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. In April 2007, it was elected number one on the Church Times' Top 50 Religious Films list. Furthermore, it is one of fifteen films listed in the category "Religion" on the Vatican film list. The music, scored by Italian composer Ennio Morricone, ranked 1st on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) Classic 100 Music in the Movies.
The film is set in the 1750s and involves Spanish Jesuit priest Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) who enters the northeastern Argentina and western Paraguayan jungle to build a mission station and convert a Guaraní community to Christianity. The Guaraní community is not initially receptive to Christianity or oustiders in general, shown by the opening scene where they tie a priest to a wooden cross and send him over the Iguazu Falls, a large waterfall they live above. Father Gabriel travels to the falls, climbs to the top, and plays his oboe. The Guaraní warriors, captivated by the music, allow him to live.
Mercenary and slaver Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro) makes his living kidnapping natives such as the Guarani community and selling them to nearby plantations, including the plantation of the Spanish Governor Don Cabeza (Chuck Low). After returning from another kidnapping trip Mendoza is told by his assumed fiancé, Carlotta (Cherie Lunghi), that she loves his younger half-brother Felipe (Aidan Quinn). Mendoza later finds them in bed together and in a fit of rage kills Felipe in a duel. Although he is acquitted of the killing by Cabeza, Mendoza spirals into depression and seeks absolution for his actions. Father Gabriel visits and challenges Mendoza to undertake a suitable penance. Mendoza accompanies the Jesuits on their return to the Guarani's, scaling a cliff while dragging a heavy bundle containing his armour and sword. Upon reaching the outskirts of the natives' territory, there are a few tense moments when the natives recognise him, but after seeing him in his humbled state, they cut away his heavy bundle and forgive him.
Father Gabriel's mission is depicted as a place of sanctuary and education for the Guaraní. Moved by the Guaraní's acceptance, Mendoza wishes to help at the mission and Father Gabriel gives him a Bible. In time, Mendoza takes vows and becomes a Jesuit under Father Gabriel and his colleague Father Fielding (Liam Neeson).
The Jesuit missions were safe because they were protected under Spanish law. The Treaty of Madrid (1750) reapportioned South American land the Jesuit missions were located on, transferring the area to the Portuguese who allowed slavery. The Portuguese colonials seek to enslave the natives, and as the independent Jesuit missions might impede this, Papal emissary Cardinal Altamirano (Ray McAnally), a former Jesuit priest himself, is sent from the Vatican to survey the missions and decide which, if any, should be allowed to remain.
Under pressure from both Cabeza and Portuguese Governor Don Hontar (Ronald Pickup), Cardinal Altamirano is forced to choose between two evils. If he rules in favour of the colonists, the indigenous peoples will become enslaved; if he rules in favour of the missions, the entire Jesuit Order may be condemned by the Portuguese and the European Catholic Church could fracture. Altamirano visits the missions and is amazed at their industry and success, both in converting the Indians and, in some cases, economically. At Father Gabriel's mission of San Carlos he tries to explain the reasons behind closing the mission and instructs the Guaraní that they must leave because it is God's will. The Guaraní question the validity of his claim, and argue God's will was to settle and develop the mission. Father Gabriel and Mendoza, under threat of excommunication, state their intention to defend the mission alongside the Guaraní if the plantation owners and colonists attack. They are, however, divided on how to do this, and they debate how to respond to the impending military attack. Father Gabriel believes that violence is a direct crime against God. Mendoza, however, decides to break his vows to militarily defend the Mission. Against Father Gabriel's wishes, he teaches the natives the European art of war and once more takes up his sword.
When a joint Portuguese and Spanish [discuss] force attack, the mission is initially defended by Mendoza, Fielding and the Guaraní. They are no match for the military force and Mendoza is shot and fatally wounded after the soldiers destroy a trap, allowing them to enter the village. Fielding sacrifices himself by killing the Portuguese commander before he himself is killed. Upon seeing the Church at the mission village the soldiers become reluctant to fire. When the soldiers enter the mission village, they encounter the singing of Father Gabriel and the Guaraní women and children who march in the procession. Fr. Gabriel leads carrying a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. In spite of this, the Spanish [discuss] commander orders the attack and Father Gabriel, the rest of the priests and most of the Guaraní, including women and children, are gunned down. After Fr. Gabriel is shot a child picks up the Blessed Sacrament and leads the procession. Only a handful escape into the jungle.
In a final exchange between Cardinal Altamirano and Don Hontar, Hontar laments that what happened was unfortunate but inevitable because "we must work in the world; the world is thus." Altamirano replies, "No, thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it." Days later, a canoe of young children return to the scene of the Mission massacre and salvage a few belongings. They set off up the river, going deeper into the jungle, with the thought that the events will remain in their memories. A final title declares that many priests continue to fight for the rights of indigenous people. The text of John 1:5 is displayed: "The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness hath not overcome it."
- Robert De Niro as Captain Rodrigo Mendoza
- Jeremy Irons as Father Gabriel
- Ray McAnally as Cardinal Altamirano
- Aidan Quinn as Felipe Mendoza
- Cherie Lunghi as Carlotta
- Ronald Pickup as Don Hontar
- Chuck Low as Don Cabeza
- Liam Neeson as Father John Fielding
- Bercelio Moya as Indian Boy
- Sigifredo Ismare as Witch Doctor
- Asuncion Ontiveros as Indian Chief
- Alejandrino Moya as Chief's Lieutenant
- Daniel Berrigan as Sebastian
- Rolf Gray as Father Ralph
- Álvaro Guerrero as Jesuit
The Mission is based on events surrounding the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, in which Spain ceded part of Jesuit Paraguay to Portugal. A significant subtext is the impending Suppression of the Jesuits, of which Father Gabriel is warned by the film's narrator, Cardinal Altamirano, who was once himself a Jesuit. Altamirano, speaking in hindsight in 1758, corresponds to the actual Andalusian Jesuit Father Luis Altamirano, who was sent by Jesuit Superior General Ignacio Visconti to Paraguay in 1752 to transfer territory from Spain to Portugal. He oversaw the transfer of seven missions south and east of the Río Uruguay, that had been settled by Guaranis and Jesuits in the 17th century. As compensation, Spain promised each mission 4,000 pesos, or fewer than 1 peso for each of the circa 30,000 Guaranis of the seven missions, while the cultivated lands, livestock, and buildings were estimated to be worth 7–16 million pesos. The film's climax is the Guarani War of 1754–1756, during which historical Guaranís defended their homes against Spanish-Portuguese forces implementing the Treaty of Madrid. For the film, a re-creation was made of one of the seven missions, São Miguel das Missões.
Father Gabriel's character is loosely based on the life of Paraguayan saint and Jesuit Roque González de Santa Cruz. The story is taken from the book "The Lost Cities of Paraguay" by Father C. J. McNaspy, S.J., who was also a consultant on the film.
The waterfall setting of the film suggests the combination of these events with the story of older missions, founded between 1610–1630 on the Paranapanema River above the Guaíra Falls, from which Paulista slave raids forced Guaranís and Jesuits to flee in 1631. The battle at the end of the film evokes the eight-day Battle of Mbororé in 1641, a battle fought on land as well as in boats on rivers, in which the Jesuit-organized, firearm-equipped Guaraní forces stopped the Paulista raiders.
- Historical inaccuracies
The fictional characters Gabriel and Rodrigo were involved in a struggle that is factually incorrect since only the Guarani themselves fought against oppression in the resulting three-year warfare against the Portuguese. The Jesuit missionaries did not directly disobey the orders of Altamirano, and none stayed to fight with their converts. The character of Altamirano is historically inaccurate. He was not a cardinal sent by the Pope, but an emissary sent by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Ignazio Visconti, to preserve the Jesuit Order in Europe in the face of attacks in Spain and Portugal.
The film was mostly filmed in Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The tunnels of Fort Amherst in Kent were used as part of the monastery where Mendoza (Robert De Niro) is being held after he murders his brother.
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The Mission soundtrack was written by Ennio Morricone. Beginning with a liturgical piece (On Earth as It Is in Heaven) which becomes the "Spanish" theme, it moves quickly to the "Guaraní" theme, which is written in a heavily native style and uses several indigenous instruments. Later, Morricone defines the "Mission" theme as a duet between the "Spanish" and "Guaraní" themes. Other themes throughout the movie include the "Penance", "Conquest", and "Ave Maria Guaraní" themes. In the latter, a large choir of indigenous people sing a haunting rendition of "Ave Maria" in their native language.
Awards and honours
- Best Picture – Fernando Ghia and David Puttnam (nominated)
- Best Director – Roland Joffé (nominated)
- Best Art Direction – Stuart Craig and Jack Stephens (nominated)
- Best Cinematography – Chris Menges (won)
- Best Costume Design – Enrico Sabbatini (nominated)
- Best Film Editing – Jim Clark (nominated)
- Best Original Score – Ennio Morricone (nominated)
- Best Film – Fernando Ghia, David Puttnam and Roland Joffé (nominated)
- Best Director – Roland Joffé (nominated)
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Ray McAnally (won)
- Best Original Screenplay – Robert Bolt (nominated)
- Best Cinematography – Chris Menges (nominated)
- Best Costume Design – Enrico Sabbatini (nominated)
- Best Film Editing – Jim Clark (won)
- Best Film Music – Ennio Morricone (won)
- Best Production Design – Stuart Craig (nominated)
- Best Sound – Ian Fuller, Bill Rowe and Clive Winter (nominated)
- Best Special Visual Effects – Peter Hutchinson (nominated)
- Best Motion Picture – Drama (nominated)
- Best Director – Roland Joffé (nominated)
- Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama – Jeremy Irons (nominated)
- Best Screenplay – Robert Bolt (won)
- Best Original Score – Ennio Morricone (won)
- American Film Institute lists
- Ebert Roger (November 14, 2015). "The Mssion". Review. RogerEbert.com. Missing or empty
- "Puttnam bites back." Sunday Times [London, England] 22 Mar. 1987: 47. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. Web. 8 Apr. 2014.
- Sheila Benson (14 November 1986). "Movie Review : A Dilemma Of Conscience At Heart Of 'The Mission'". LA Times. Retrieved 8 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- SDG (2015). "The Mission (1986)". Decent Films. Steven D. Greydanus. Retrieved December 15, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Canby Vincent (31 October 1986). "SCREEN: 'THE MISSION,' WITH DeNIRO AND IRONS". New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- James Schofield Saeger (1995) "The Mission and Historical Missions: Film and the Writing of History." The Americas, Vol. 51, No. 3, pp. 393–415.
- Saxon, Wolfgang (8 February 1995). "C. J. McNaspy, 79, Jesuit Musicologist, Author and Linguist". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- "The Mission". st-andrews.ac.uk.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office The Mission Film Focus".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- "The 59th Academy Awards (1987) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 31 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- "The 1987 Bafta Awards Nominees and Winners". bafta.org. Retrieved 23 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- "Festival de Cannes: The Mission". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 11 July 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- "1986 Golden Globes nominees and winners". hfpa.org. Retrieved 23 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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