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Films >> Black Robe (1991) >> Scene Analysis >>

Laforgue Reaches His Destination

By Kathryn Burke, with comment by Kim Weber

[1] Father Laforgue’s final acts in the film show him to be the strong and true character we know him to be. Seeing Father Laforgue succeed is gratifying because he has faced so much adversity prior to reaching his final destination. As Father journeys along to the Huron village after parting ways with Annuka and Daniel, we see how alone he is in the wilderness. Unprotected and without companionship, Father Laforgue is completely vulnerable, yet his black-robed silhouette against the cold ice reminds us of his strength.

[2] When Father Laforgue first reaches the Huron village, his journey appears as though it may have been for nothing. It is icy winter, and the village looks empty and bleak. Father appears bruised and battered after his experience with the Iroquois. The viewer is left to question, has it all been worth it? The looming cross in the village reminds the viewer why Father Laforgue has journeyed far and suffered much. Nonetheless, his first human encounter is when he sees the dead body of another priest inside the doors of the church. This may be foreshadowing the fate that awaits Father Laforgue.

[3] The first living person Father Laforgue meets at the Huron village is Father Jerome. The ignorance shown by Father Jerome contrasts with the true love and honesty we have seen Father Laforgue express to all the Native Americans he has encountered thus far. Father Jerome says that after twenty years he is no closer to understanding “the savages.” (see comment by Kim Weber) His indelicate phrasing expresses the cruel side of the Jesuits that are trying to convert the Native Americans, which some critics have argued this film fails to express. I believe Father Laforgue’s encounter with Father Jerome shows the reality of the Jesuits’ interactions with the Native Americans because we see that even the priests sent to love and serve these people are not perfect. Father Jerome expresses his belief that “perhaps there are no converts.” For the viewer, it is disheartening to imagine that Father Laforgue may eventually start to feel so discouraged as well.

[4] After Father Jerome dies, Father Laforgue seems determined to carry on his mission with the Hurons. After raising the issue of baptism with the people, Father Laforgue learns that Father Jerome has told the Hurons that baptism will cure them from the sickness that has overtaken the village. This dishonesty by Father Jerome may have been intended to achieve what he believed to be a greater good (the baptism of these people), but it reminds the viewer that the Native Americans may be right in not trusting these foreign people. Would baptizing the Native Americans under the pretense that it would heal them be a true conversion? No. Father Laforgue proves his character again by being honest with the people and telling them that while baptism may not cure them of any illnesses, it will help them reach paradise.

[5] During the course of the film we see Father Laforgue’s faith, love and goodness displayed, but I believe his strongest attribute is his bravery. As he speaks with the Huron chief, he is told that many of the other Native Americans want to kill him. Unfazed, Father Laforgue says he wants to help them. Father has been on the verge of death at countless moments in the film, but he remains brave because of his faith. When asked if he loves the Hurons, images of the many Native Americans, both good and bad, that Father has met are flashed across the screen. This powerful scene is showing us the Native Americans as individuals rather than a group of people that need to be conquered. Father Laforgue pauses and then answers yes. A boundary has been crossed between Father and the Hurons, and he can now do the work he journeyed so far to do.


Kim Weber 4/30/12

Immediately after Father Laforgue’s interactions with Father Jerome I was disheartened. I wondered if twenty years earlier Father Jerome had arrived in the same hopeful state in which Father Laforgue now found himself. Did all Jesuits arrive with the same steadfast faith, and how did they all eventually lose hope? Did the constant struggle of the task he had been sent to do eventually discourage Father Jerome to the point that he just gave up? And, if so, what would Father Laforgue’s breaking point be? I was hoping that Father Jerome would provide Laforgue with some kind of inspiration to continue on his journey; however, the fact that Father Laforgue remained faithful despite the less than hospitable welcome from Father Jerome is just one more testament to his intense faith and passion for the cause he was sent to promote.