The Mission (1986)

While walking to class Wednesday, I was not sure what to expect from the week’s film–The Mission. To be honest, I was bored out of my mind twenty minutes into the movie. After countless twists and turns in my seat trying to get comfortable, I decided to begin watching the film from an analytical perspective (like we are supposed to) instead of an entertainment one. Once I changed my mindset, I realized Rodrigo, Father Gabriel, and the Guarani were all rather interesting characters. Although the film may not be 100 percent historically accurate, it did a decent job subtly depicting the European savageness in the early Americas. Reading James Schofield Saeger’s work can help one conclude that the film’s accuracy may not be based entirely on the truth of history.

In reality, it is quite obvious why the movie does not follow history completely. When the filmmakers are catering to Europeans (or people of European decent), it would be somewhat hard to convince the audience to pay to watch the movie when they are depicted as cruel murderers who use a foreign religion as an excuse for mass genocide. InThe Mission, the main characters are Spanish Jesuits who build missions in modern-day Paraguay for the indigenous people that live there. Rodrigo, a former slave catcher, is convinced by Father Gabriel to join him and the other Jesuits to help the Guarani.

Once Rodrigo accepts his offer, the movie begins to look a little funny and cliche to those who know a little about history. As much of Saeger’s work would support, the filmmaker’s depiction of the Guarani from here turns negative. The audience is expected to see the Jesuits as miracle workers who are there to make the Guarani ‘better’ or ‘civilized.’ What is often overlooked by movies such as these is the fact that the Guarani (and other Natives) was better off before Europeans got there; Christianity was nothing more than a fancy word for ‘mass extermination’ for these groups of people.

Although Saeger seems pedantic in his work, he brings up several valuable points. One that I really agree with is the problem with the filmmaker choosing Rodrigo to remove the splinter from the Guarani woman’s foot. I guess Europeans brought wood with them to the Americas. Another strong point Saeger made was his argument that the Jesuits and other Europeans typically made the rules when it came to land and resources. Did the Guarani people really have the option to disagree with Europeans? The only option was to either assimilate into the new culture and believe in an absurd religion (in their perspective), or to be sold into slavery or killed.

In conclusion, The Mission seemed to do a good job presenting a movie capable of generating revenue and appealing to its intended audience. Despite its success, presenting a historical movie filled with fun facts that history nerds (like myself) would enjoy, is something it did not do. After being slightly disappointed with this film, I am looking forward to future films that steer slightly away from the European viewpoint and focus more on the perspective of the original early people of Latin America.