There is a widely held opinion among many art historians, theologians, and cinema critics that the film “Chocolate” has presented a rather unorthodox or even distorted image of Christianity and Jesus. This movie has aroused a storm of protest among people, who belie that this film does not reflect the main principles of the Christian faith. Moreover, it misinterprets the very concept of good, established in the Christian tradition. Perhaps, it would be better for us to present scientific views as to this issue. In addition to that, we must present theological views as to Christianity, its conception of God, and of course Jesus Christ.
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For instance, we may take such work as “A Brief Introduction to the New Testament” by Bart Erhman. The author believes that the New Testament allows various views as to Jesus Christ. We may perceive him as the authoritative son of God, the vindicated son of God, and even the misunderstood son of God. Moreover, even, the concept of God may have various interpretations; he may be seen as a judge or compassionate father (Ehrman, 222). Amy Levine in her book “The Misunderstood Jew” also argues that many of Jesus Christ’s ideas were misinterpreted (Levine). Our main task is to show how these ideas are reflected in the film “Chocolate”, comparing the views of the main characters, Vianne Rocher and Comte De Reynaud. Perhaps, it would be better for us to give some background information as to this movie.
The plot of this film mostly concentrates on the life of a young woman Vianne Rocher, who arrives at a small village in France with her little daughter and opens a small chocolate shop. Her arrival drastically changes the life of the village. However, the main character is viewed by some people (Comte De Reynaud) in the village as a highly immoral person.
Analyzing the relationships between these two characters, we should mention that De Reynaud is described by the narrator as the person who “through good times and bad, famine and feast… held fast to their traditions’” It does not occur to him that some of his principles may not be correct. This character represents rather conventional views as to Christianity and Christ. He is indignant at newcomer Vianne because he believes that some aspects of her behavior are highly immoral. The main reason for it is that her confectionary enterprise contains some erotic elements. For instance, this woman helps other villagers to awake or probably reawake some relationships with one another. The main problem is that Comte De Reynaud views them only from the sexual point of view; he fails to see that they also involve spirituality.
In his view God, God is some kind of omnipotent judge, who will eventually punish every sinner during the Day of Doom. Certainly, we cannot say that his view is entirely wrong, but he can see only this aspect of Gods nature.
As regards the image of God, we can say that the makers of the movie try to show him as compassionate, omniscient, and loving. “Chocolate” emphasizes the main idea of Christianity, that God is Love. At least, this is a perception of Vianne Rocher.
Some scenes of this film are often blasphemous. For example, we may take Serge and Josephine, a married couple, on the point of divorce. Serge says, “We are still married in the eyes of God” Serge falsely associated God and Church. Josephine objects to this statement in the following way, ‘Then He must be blind’. This moment seems to be rather controversial. This scene represents God as an omniscient judge, who can always see the true nature of things (Ehrman, p. 200).
It also should be taken into account that the concept of love has some pagan elements. For example, Vianne has the statue of Venus in her chocolate shop. This ancient Roman goddess is often mistakenly associated only with erotic love. However, this deity has many manifestations in various cultures, and this goddess involves spiritual relationships between a man and a woman. It seems that Reynaud views love only as sexual relationships between two sexes, which are based on carnal desires.
We can see that their views on the world and religion are different. For Comte de Reynaud, God is a judge, who is entitled to punish people for their sins. Moreover, the views Jesus Christ as the authoritative son of God (Ehrman, p. 233). Probably, it is a far-fetched conclusion but his faith is based on fear, which is naturally a very tragic misconception. Certainly, it affects his perception of the world and his behavior. He is afraid of anything that contradicts his principles. Reynaud even beheads the statues of Venus in Viannes shop, believing that this pagan goddess defiles Jesus Christ and his teaching.
In contrast to him, Vianne views God as, the force that commands love in human beings. Love is viewed not only as sexual relationships but also as spiritual intimacy. Her worldview is positive and therefore she is not constrained as her counterpart. She says to a little boy “Don’t worry so much about ‘not supposed to’ – live a little” Perhaps, this is her credo. Vianne Rocher views Jesus Christ as the loving son of God. The main character of this film proves that people are often too preoccupied with various rules and restrictions, and it prevents them from being happy. The motif of spiritual and emotional freedom is dominant in this film. Unlike Vianne, Reynaud is not able to give vent his intimate feelings. This is the main reason why he is so indignant with this woman. Probably, it is not even indignation but envy, which is by the way one of the deadly sins in the Christian tradition.
The makers of the film are slightly ironic about this character, especially when he breaks into Viannes shop. He tries to smash the showcase, but accidentally he tastes a piece of chocolate. It is worth mentioning that Vianne finds him in the shop, she offers Reynaud a glass of water, knowing that he is thirsty. That is a truly Christian deed. These two characters are contrasted in the film. Vianna adheres to the teaching of Jesus Christ, while Reynaud only enunciates them. This is the main difference between them.
Thus, we can conclude that the film “Chocolate” between people, who truly follow Christian principles and those who only proclaim them. This also proves that the teaching of Jesus Christ can be interpreted in various ways.
- Amy Jill Levine. The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.
- Bart D. Ehrman. A Brief Introduction to the New Testament. Oxford University Press, 2004