BLACK ROBE (1991)

Scene Log

-- approximate times given are marked from the beginning of the film not the video tape --

0:01:45  The Priest and the Peddlers
Fr. Laforgue gazes at the French trading post and settlement-to-be and scolds the fur traders for repaying the Indians with brandy.

0:02:32  Champlain Meets with Fr. Bourque
Champlain and Fr. Bourque speak privately, concerned over having to send the young, inexperienced Fr. Laforgue through Indian territory to the Huron Mission 1500 miles downriver. Champlain is certain that with such a dangerous journey in winter, "death is almost certain."  However, Bourque believes that "death is not always a great evil."

0:04:13  The Traders Discuss the Priests
As they build a house, the traders talk about the priests' plans to go to the Huron Mission and convert the natives.  The traders feel satisfied and relieved that they do not have to join the priests on their dangerous trip.

0:05:14  Captain Clock Speaks
Members of the Algonquin Tribe (the tribe on whose land Champlain and his men are building) stare at a clock in Fr. Bourque's chapel, expectantly.  The small clock strikes four, and one Algonquin says to another that "Captain Clock" is "alive" and that he speaks.  When asked what the clock was saying, Bourque answers that it says "it's time to go."  The Algonquins leave the chapel.

0:06:57  Daniel Asks to Join Laforgue
Daniel speaks with Bourque, desiring to join Laforgue on his trip with the Algonquin to the Huron Mission.  Bourque realizes that Daniel is bored with his currrent position, just building houses after coming all the way from France.  With the help of Laforgue (who acknowledges that Daniel speaks the Algonquin language far better than he) and Bourque's promise that Daniel may, after the trip, return to France and join the seminary to become a priest, Daniel is allowed to go to the Huron Mission.

0:08:00  The Eve of the Journey  (see essay)  (see film clip #1)  (see film clip #2)
Crosscutting of Champlain and Chomina, Chief of the Algonquin, preparing for the evening's ceremony.  Each man dons ceremonial clothing, both wearing furs.  At the ceremony the French and the Algonquin each dance to the music their own people make--the Algonquin with drums and chanting, the French with their woodwind instruments.  Champlain introduces the priests to the Algonquins and commissions Chief Chomina to accompany Laforgue to the Huron Mission.  In exchange, Champlain provides them with tools and cooking implements.

0:12:36  Bon Voyage!
After hearing Fr. Bourque's blessing, Laforgue, Daniel, and the Algonquins set off for the Huron Territory in canoes.

0:14:10  Settling in for the Night
Laforgue and the Algonquins settle into camp and get ready to go to sleep.  As everyone lies down in a tent, Daniel steals a glance at Annuka, Chief Chomina's daughter, who returns his gaze.

0:15:46  Laforgue Flashes Back the First Time--The Church
Flashback to France: A young altar server named Laforgue meets an unidentified Jesuit at the altar of a large church.  The priest is badly burned and scarred--he explains to Laforgue that "the savages" in New France did that to him because they are "uncivilized."  Despite his burns, he wishes to return to New France soon and continue his missionary efforts, calling this work a "glorious task."

0:17:04  Daniel Tries to Speak with Annuka
Approaching Annuka by the river, Daniel tries to speak with her.  Annuka demands to know why he stares at her but then pretends not to be staring when Blackrobe (the Algonquins' name for Laforgue) is looking.  Daniel cannot explain; Annuka says that nothing "you French do makes sense" and walks away from him.

0:18:33  Laforgue Shows the Algonquin His Writing
Chomina and his friends see Laforgue writing in a book and ask him what he's doing.  He replies, "I'm making words."  The Algonquin don't see how this is possible since he has not been speaking.  To demonstrate, Laforgue gets Chomina to tell him something that he doesn't already know--that his wife's mother died last winter.  Laforgue writes this down, walks over to Daniel, and shows him the book.  When Daniel reads aloud that Chomina's wife's mother died last winter, the Algonquin are alarmed by this power Blackrobe has.  Laforgue says that there are "greater things" that he can teach them and walks away.  The Algonquin are concerned that Laforgue is a demon.

0:20:56  Laforgue the Voyeur
Late at night, an Algonquin man and woman have sex on the ground inside the group tent.  Laforgue wakes to see their intercourse and appears uncomfortable.  He lies back down and tries to return to sleep as the Algonquin couple continues.

0:21:25  Daniel Shares His Doubts; Ougebmat Shares His Complaints
Daniel asks Laforgue if he ever doubts whether the natives can or are even meant to be converted to Christianity.  Laforgue is steadfast in his belief that they can and must be converted, for the sake of their salvation. Ougebmat approaches the Frenchmen, complaining to Laforgue that the Algonquin deserve more than they have been given for their kindness to the French.  He wants the tobacco that the French have been carrying with them, but Laforgue replies that it is for trade with tribes to the north.  Ougebmat leaves in disgust, and Daniel scolds Laforgue for not understanding that the Algonquin way is to share everything without question.  Laforgue tells Daniel to give them the tobacco.

0:23:22  First Contact--Daniel and Annuka Embrace (see essay)
As Daniel goes to the canoe to get the tobacco, he spies Annuka standing nearby.  The two exchange long looks.  She walks over to him, and they embrace and kiss, hiding among the trees, careful not to be seen by the others.

0:24:51  Sitting by the Fire, Talking about the Afterlife
At night, the Algonquin men and the two Frenchmen gather by the fire and smoke the tobacco.  Laforgue is unaccustomed to smoking, so he coughs and everyone laughs at him.  The Algonquins ask Laforgue if there will be tobacco in this heaven he talks about.  He replies that they will not need tobacco there.  When they ask if there will be women, he replies that they will not need women either, that they will be happy just being with God.  The Algonquin do not appear pleased with this.

0:26:09  Chomina Chastises Annuka
Chomina tells Annuka that she is a very beautiful girl and that she should not continue to associate with the "ugly Frenchman."  She replies that she does not think that he is so ugly.

0:26:53  Laforgue Flashes Back a Second Time--A Room in France
Flashback to France: Laforgue and his mother are among a small group watching a young woman play the recorder.  His mother tries to convince him that she is beautiful and talented, and that he should woo her.

0:27:41  Laforgue: Voyeurism and Self-Flagellation
Awakened by the overwhelming amount of smoke in the tent, Laforgue gets up to get some fresh air.  As he walks along the water, he notices Daniel and Annuka having sex in the woods.  He silently sheds tears and runs off, ashamed at his staring.  Having found a branch from an evergreen tree, he removes his shirt and flogs his back, repeating "mea culpa" (my guilt) as a means of penance.  Meanwhile, Annuka asks Daniel whether Blackrobe is a demon, since he has no sex with women. Daniel explains that Laforgue is not a demon, but that abstaining from sex with women is a promise "they make to their God."  Acknowledging how odd that must sound to her (and to himself), he resumes having sex with her.

0:30:56  Chomina's Dream
Chomina dreams of a snow-covered land where he sees Blackrobe and a raven who attacks him.  He also sees a young girl covered in frost who stares at him.  He awakes, frightened by what he has dreamed.

0:31:25 Chomina Shares His Dream with His Wife and the Tribesmen
When Chomina explains his dream to his wife, she insists that the raven is Blackrobe.  His tribesmen want to kill Laforgue, thinking that he really is evil, but Chomina protests that the raven does not die in the dream.  Since the tribesmen believe that dreams are more real than battle or dying, they obey and decide not to kill him. Instead, they agree to find a sorcerer who will figure out what to do about Blackrobe.

0:33:12  The Algonquins and Montagnais Confer
Having rowed ashore, the Algonquins encounter the Montagnais tribe, with whom they discuss the Frenchmen.  They tell the Montagnais that the French are not intelligent and that their God is very small and communicates by saying "Dong! Dong! Dong!" imitating the clock's noises. The Algonquins ask to see Mestigoit, the tribe's sorcerer.

0:35:36  Laforgue Meets Mestigoit
As Laforgue reads a book on the shore, some native children steal his hat and play with it.  As they are throwing the hat around, Mestigoit enters the scene, a little man with skin painted yellow.  Mestigoit confronts Laforgue, calling him a demon and cursing him.  Laforgue walks away as Mestigoit tries to "frighten" him with loud noises.

0:38:09  Laforgue Flashes Back a Third Time--At St. Joan's Statue
Laforgue sees his mother praying before St. Joan's statue in France.  He is about to go to New France, and she tells him that God has called him, just as St. Joan was called.  Laforgue considers the comparison too lofty, but his mother insists that, like Joan of Arc, God has chosen him to die for Him.

0:38:51  Laforgue, Lost in the Woods  (see essay)  (see film clip)
Laforgue wanders through the woods, apparently having lost his way.  As he gazes up at the trees, for a few moments the camera cuts to an image of a church's ceiling (0:39:32-38), as if Laforgue is thinking of the woods as a kind of church.  He shouts for the Algonquins and confesses to God that he does not welcome death as he believes a good Christian should, but fears it.  Shortly after his prayer, the Algonquins find him, warmly accept him back, and leave together.

0:41:27  Relaxation and Rowing   (see film clip)
The Frenchmen and Algonquins enjoy some relaxing time, eating meat and laughing.  Laforgue shows some of the children how to play the recorder.  They then resume rowing along the river and Mestigoit continues to curse the "demon" Blackrobe.  Laforgue splashes him with water from his oar.

0:42:22  Laforgue's Confession and Conflict with Daniel  (see essay)
The priest confesses that he, too, has committed a "sin of the flesh" by lusting after Annuka.  He suggests that both he and Daniel say an act of contrition together.  Daniel refuses and the two men clash over the competing ideals of the Algonquins and the Christians.  Laforgue claims that the devil controls the natives, while Daniel argues that they are "true Christians" since they are unselfish and even have their own concept of an afterlife in which the ghosts of Algonquins hunt the ghosts of animals through the forest.  Laforgue dismisses this idea as childish, but Daniel finds it no more ridiculous than the Christian concept of sitting on clouds and looking at God.

0:44:20  Mestigoit Says Blackrobe Must Die
Mestigoit reports to the Algonquins that Laforgue must be killed.  Chomina protests, saying that they will have to answer to Champlain if he dies.  A strong wind blows, and Mestigoit claims the spirits are angry that they are allowing this demon to accompany them.

0:45:30  Laforgue Blesses a Baby
An Algonquin woman's baby has died, and it is placed on a tree branch.  Laforgue takes the baby in his arms and asks God to bless it. Mestigoit believes that he's casting a spell, but Chomina suggests that he's talking to his God.  As Ougebmat watches Laforgue make the sign of the cross on the baby's forehead, he comments: "See that sign?  That's how they steal our spirit" (0:47:33-39).

0:47:47  Laforgue Abandoned
As Laforgue and Daniel rejoin the Algonquins at shore, Ougebmat offers them a dead bird, which Daniel accepts.  The Algonquins abandon the Frenchmen on the shore, thinking that Blackrobe may be a demon.  Daniel, quickly weighing his options, jumps into an empty canoe and paddles after them.

0:51:00  Chomina Regrets His Decision
As Laforgue copes with his solitude, the Algonquins and Daniel arrive on land.  The Frenchman follows them along the way to the winter hunting grounds.  Chomina regrets not keeping the promise to Champlain.  Ougebmat argues that the gifts given in return for their guiding Blackrobe were insufficient--flints, pots, axes, but no muskets.  Mestigoit adds that, "They are not gifts. There are no gifts given by the French that aren't paid for" (0:53:08-15).  Ougebmat tries to shoot an arrow through Daniel, but Chomina makes him miss and decides that the tribe will return to help Blackrobe, as Champlain asked.

0:54:16  Laforgue Welcomes His Suffering
Laforgue prays to God, welcoming his suffering if it is meant to lead to the salvation of the Algonquins.

0:55:05  Another Tribe Appears
Laforgue awakes to see another tribe rummaging through his possessions.  He hides for fear of being seen and killed.

0:56:21  Battle Between Tribes
Daniel and the Algonquins return to Blackrobe, realizing that another tribe is on the land but out of sight.  As they roam through the woods, prepared for battle, they are attacked by the other tribe (the Iroquois) from hiding. An arrow pierces Chomina's wife's neck, fatally wounding her.  Open battle ensues, and several members of both tribes die.  Laforgue comes out of hiding to give a final blessing to Chomina's wife.  As soon as he finishes this, he is knocked unconscious from behind.

0:59:10  Kidnapped!
The surviving Algonquins--Chomina, his daughter Annuka, and his son--and the two Frenchmen are dragged by the Iroquois along a rope chain tied around each of their necks to their village.

1:01:26  Forgiveness and Punishment
Daniel asks Laforgue's forgiveness for abandoning him; Laforgue insists that "God is with us" and that only He forgives.  The two Frenchmen and Chomina are forced to run through a gauntlet of sticks, where they are beaten and kicked severely.  The Iroquois go through their possessions, taking special interest in the musket.

1:03:56  Tortured by the Iroquois
Forced into an Iroquois hut, Chomina and the Frenchmen are stripped of their clothes.  The Iroquois use a shell to cut off Laforgue's left index finger.  The three men are then ordered to sing--Chomina chanting an Algonquin song while the Frenchmen chant the Ave Maria.  As they sing, the Iroquois slit the throat of Chomina's young son.  The Iroquois chief stands directly in front of Chomina and threatens much harsher violence for the next day.

1:07:22  Chomina's Advice to the Frenchmen
Chomina asks Daniel if he still wants to be "one of us," after seeing the Iroquois' cruelty.  Daniel argues that the Iroquois are animals, not men, but Chomina claims that "they are the same as us."  Chomina then advises the Frenchmen not to cry out when the Iroquois kill them, or else they will steal their souls.  Laforgue offers baptism to Chomina, so that his soul can be in paradise.  He declines the offer since his people will not be in Laforgue's paradise, "only Blackrobes."

1:08:34  Iroquois' Plan for Torture
The Iroquois discuss their plans to burn Annuka alive as a way of getting Chomina to cry out.  They want to trade the Frenchmen, since they have heard that a Frenchman may be worth twenty muskets.

1:09:27  Annuka Helps Everyone Escape  (see essay)
At night, when the Iroquois are asleep, Annuka draws the one guard over to her, convincing him to untie her so they can have sex.  While they are having sex, with Chomina and Daniel watching in distress, Annuka clubs the guard on the head with an animal bone.  She unties the others, and they leave the hut.

1:12:37  Onward to the Huron Mission
Annuka and the three men kill an outside Iroquois guard with an arrow and leave the village.  As they reach the river, Chomina plans to abandon the Frenchmen and return with Annuka to their village.  Laforgue convinces him to proceed to the Huron mission, since the Iroquois will not be expecting them to travel away from his people.

1:15:10  Laforgue Prays for God's Mercy on the Natives
As Daniel, Chomina, and Annuka sleep, Laforgue prays, "Lord, I beg you, show your mercy to these savage people, who will never look upon your face in paradise."

1:15:59  Chomina's Vision Realized
As the men drag the canoe along shore, Chomina sees the snow-covered land from his dream.  He walks toward it, ready to die.

1:18:13  Chomina Waits for Death
Having seen his death place from his dreams, and hurting from the arrowhead embedded in his flesh, Chomina lies down on the ground.  He tells Blackrobe that no one should welcome death, that even though this world is cruel, it is the sunlight.  He confides to his daughter that this place is where he dreamed he would die; he also tells her that in his dream, Blackrobe walks alone.  They leave him to his death.

1:21:12  Chomina Dies  (see essay)
Annuka and the Frenchmen row along the river as Chomina lies in his death place, sees the frost-covered woman (the She-Manitou) from his dream, and dies.

1:22:07  Blackrobe Must Walk Alone
The trio continue rowing along the increasingly icy river.  When they reach land, Annuka insists that Blackrobe must walk alone, as in her father's dream.  Daniel wants to remain with Laforgue, but the Jesuit insists that Annuka, who has lost everything because of their journey, needs Daniel more.

1:25:17  Laforgue Arrives at the Huron Mission
Laforgue finds the mission but does not see anyone around and seems to fear it may be abandoned.

1:27:33  Laforgue Meets Fr. Jerome
Laforgue finds Fr. Jerome inside the Mission building.  He is the only survivor since "the fever" wiped out many of the Hurons, causing one native to kill Fr. Duvall, because the Hurons believed the priests brought the disease as revenge for not converting.  Jerome believes he and Laforgue will soon both be killed by the Hurons, since there aren't even any converts to protect them.  But Jerome is still hopeful because the Hurons think baptism may cure their fever.  Laforgue believes the Hurons should understand the faith before they accept it, while Jerome thinks that their imminent death puts them at risk of missing out on paradise.

1:28:59  Gravedigging and Planmaking
Laforgue digs a grave for the late Fr. Duvall while the Hurons observe him and plan violence against the remaining Blackrobes.  One Huron argues that if they accept the priests' plan for them (no more killing enemies, for instance), they will no longer be Hurons and their enemies will destroy them (1:29:51--1:30:10).

1:30:10  Healer Dances; Laforgue Buries
A Huron healer dances, chants, and shakes a rattle over the sick as Laforgue buries the dead priest.

1:30:56  Shared Confessions
At night, Fr. Laforgue and Fr. Jerome, both conscious of the chances of impending death, agree to hear each other's confessions, although the movie does not show us their confessions.

1:31:36  Laforgue Questions God
In the morning, after Jerome has died, Laforgue stands before the cross and asks God why Jerome is with Him in paradise while "Chomina lies forever in utter darkness."

1:32:27  Laforgue Meets the Hurons
Laforgue rings the mission bell, and the Hurons approach him.  One Huron man asks him, "Demon, why are you here?"  Laforgue explains that he's not a demon and that he will be here his whole life.  When asked if the "water sorcery" (baptism) will cure them, he says it will not, but that they should ask Jesus for help.  The Huron asks Laforgue if he's a man (because a demon, the Huron explains, cannot show compassion) and if he loves them.  He says "yes" to both questions.  The Huron man responds, "Then baptize us."

1:35:00  Laforgue Baptizes the Huron Tribe
Laforgue asks God to "spare them" as he baptizes the Hurons.  The camera pans to the sun shining into the center of a large cross outside the building.  Subtitles inform us that fifteen years after the Hurons are baptized and have accepted Christianity, the Iroquois (their enemies) kill them.  The Jesuit mission to the Hurons is abandoned, and the Jesuits return to Quebec.
 
 

Copyright (c) 2000 by Robert F. Kilker, Graduate Student at Lehigh University.

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