The Mission gives the typical Hollywood version of history. The longing to describe an event of the past by searching to make a hero out of a group of people who would not have been viewed as such at that time tends to be a recurring theme in historical representations produced by Hollywood. When watching The Mission one must remember that maximizing entertainment is the goal of Hollywood to produce large profits. Historical accuracy is usually near the bottom of the list for movie producers.
The films appears to do a good job at representing the tensions over religion and other controversial issues such as slavery, but it’s representation of the Jesuit mission and Guarani people appear to be lacking in factual substance. James Saeger’s article gives a rather compelling argument that the Jesuit mission and the Guarani people were actually very different than portrayed in the film. The film portrays the relationship between the two groups as a friendly and compassionate relationship. The Guarani are rather accepting of the Christian faith, and seem to only question the Pope’s ability to know the will of God. Saeger explains that the Guarani people were not as accepting of the Christian faith as the movie may lead one to believe. They were highly superstitious and stuck to many of their traditions. The Jesuit missionaries are portrayed as heroes in the film that are only concerned with the well being of the Guarani people. In truth, they were their under the orders of the Catholic Church. They had a job to make peaceful land transfers more peaceful and religious leaders hoped Christianity would make the Indian people of South America submissive to these land transfers. One thing the movie does correctly portray is the strong will of the Guarani people.
The Guarani people were not so willing to just give up their way of life. The films portrays that they were easily persuaded by the Jesuits, but Saeger argues that most of the relationship relied on the mass influx of iron that was used to produce tools and weapons that improved the overall living condition of the Guarani people. Within the film, the Guarani people are portrayed more as savages who drastically needed the help of the Jesuits. In truth, the Guarani people were more than capable of surviving on their own. The tools and weapons initially brought to them was simply an attempt along with Christianity in order to make them more submissive to the European powers. Their strong will to maintain their own way of life did not allow this to happen.
The European powers of the sixteenth century were interested in the land only for its economical advantages, this included being able to enslave the natives of the land to use them as a means of cheap labor for producing goods. Surely many of the missionaries were there because they truly believed they were brining people to God, but they were also pawns of the European powers and the Church to colonize new lands. These facts are not clearly stated within the film itself. Without delving into the true accounts of the Guarani people and the turmoil they faced, many people would miss the obvious historical inaccuracies of The Mission.