Trimark/1991/100m/WS 1.77Australia-Canada/1991/English and Subtitles/Color/Widescreen 1.75:1/Stereo Surround/100 minutes/Directed by Bruce Beresford/Starring Lothaire Bluteau, August Schellenberg/Vidmark/No Chaps/CLV/$34.95
Authentic adventure depicting an arduous journey of faith by a 17th century Jesuit priest up river into the foreboding and hostile Canadian wilderness is painful and beautiful at the same time. Director Bruce Beresford succeeds in forging a magnificent tale from the power of nature and the strengths and frailties of man.
Although the action comes in short, horrifying bursts between the deliberate pace of the journey, the suspense generated by the anticipated threat of peril is manipulated by Beresford to maximum effect. The acceptance of Father Laforgue of the foreshadowed fate that awaits him is intensified in flashback to his native France. There is a casualness to the violence in this film that precludes any hint of artifice and those with no tolerance for graphic screen depiction, however intrinsic to the natural flow of the film, might well take heed of this caution.
The photography is majestic when capturing Father Laforgue's pathetic isolation under the icy tendrils of the big trees, and hotly intimate in the fire-lit Iroquois huts that host unspeakable horror. The sweeping chords of George Delerue's musical score blends perfectly with the diverse elements of the film.
Luthaire Bluteau gives a fine central performance as the faithful father guided by the generous direction of Beresford. The filmmaker illicits uniformly natural acting from a terrific supporting cast of fresh faces. The use of subtitles to interpret the native language of the Indians enhances the overall impact of performance.
The strongly realized vision of Black Robe serves as a testament to the supreme talent of Bruce Beresford. This vision is not likely to be easily forgotten.
The extremely handsome transfer serves this film on laser well. The spectacular photography is preserved and difficult interiors are menacingly convincing. The sound has been accorded equal skill in its laser translation. The sudden whoosh of an arrow is sure to startle the film's audience upright.
Don't miss the opportunity to make your acquaintance with the remarkable Black Robe.