The Mission, a film by Roland Joffe, depicts the events of the Jesuit Missionaries in Paraguay during the Guarani War. First, I must address the opening scene, man tied to the cross floating down the river. My thoughts of confusion are the same now as when I was watching this. Joffe never addressed the point behind this scene either.
I believe the story was directed more towards Hollywood than historical accuracy. The Mission tells the story of a certain group of a Jesuits who choose to defy their mission in order to defend the natives right to remain in their home. This guerilla resistance is atypical of a European mercenary, to completely abandon one’s vow of obedience to the church was very uncommon for a mercenary in the 18th century. Also, the representation of the Jesuit missionaries as Martyrs in urealistic but typical in filmmaking.
Another unlikable point I found was the white man’s bias in the film. James Saegar summed the point up well, “The filmmakers assume Jesuit policies identical with Guarani interests, untrue historically and unconvinving on film.” There were many more conflicts between the Jesuits and the Guarani that the film forgets to address. It doesn’t address many of the opinions held by the Guarani, other than gestures by the Guarani and a couple of conversations meant to represent their thoughts. I agree that it was a weak misrepresentation of the Guarani people. The film made it seem as though Christianity was easily accepted into their tribe, where in reality in took decades. The main thing I didn’t like was the depiction of the Jesuit missionaries to be completely altruistic beings and devoted defenders of the Guarani, when, in reality, the Jesuit agenda was prioritiozed.
Father Gabriel is one of the heros in the film. He defends the Guarani, but refuses to fight for their home. I didn’t understand why he could abandon the order of the church for the Guarani, but he couldn’t fight for their freedom. Mendoza is the fighter of the two, and another one of the heros. However, he fights for the people he once sold into slavery. At one point in his life he found them barbaric, and then at anther point he is on their side and defends the to his own death. Overall, I found this hard to believe.
It was a typical Hollywood movie. The location was paradise, the acting was overly melodramatic, and of course, there was an incorporation of guerilla warfare. The truth behind the film was largely neglected for the sake of the story and it’s audience. Overall, I thought it was depressing and biased. I believe Saegar raises some interesting points in critiquing the historical inaccuracies involving location, women, the misrepresentation of the Guarani, and portraying the Jesuits to be Martyrs.