A brief summary of the content of the text
The Mission presents the story of Father Gabriel, a Jesuit priest, who enters the South American wilderness to converts the natives to Christianity. Through this process he builds a mission with the assistance of the natives; whilst the nearby Portuguese plots to attack the mission and enslave or kill the occupants, as the land treaty has been transferred from the Spanish.
A reflection of the importance of the material to the unit you are studying
The mission presents a storyline where faith and doubt are presented in a distinct style, which is rather different from the other texts throughout the unit. Other texts present a clear advantage to following a path of faith over one of doubt. In The Mission, these two paths are presented concurrently in the stories of Father Gabriel and Rodrigo Mendoza, a reformed slave trader.
The faith and doubts of these characters are presented plainly, the Father held firm to his belief in God; and Rodrigo, through his journey, eventually returned to his belief in man. Overall, Joffe includes a wider view of the struggle of the institutionalised faith of the Catholic Church and the increasingly secular society of the Spaniards.
Significant points of analysis with support from the text
The final battle, a key component to the journeys of the main characters, fulfils the first unit goal set by the BSSS, and presents the viewer with a range of spiritual, moral and religious issues to grapple with. First witnessing the struggle of the ‘uncivilised’ natives coming against the ‘civilised’ Portuguese in battle; where many of the primitive tools are rendered petty against guns and cannons; a battle with no purpose, and a waste of lives. The second, enslaved natives firing upon their own people. Thirdly, as presented by Joffe as useless and rather out of place, Father Gabriel and the other’s prayers and penance under fire. Finally the viewer must witness the shooting of both Rodrigo and the Father. This scene is particularly poignant as it holds significance to both characters; Rodrigo had been given a second chance by Father Gabriel; and Father Gabriel had witnessed the change and faith that Rodrigo had developed in his time at the mission. These final moments are presented as a struggle between Rodrigo and Father Gabriel’s doubts of the roles of faith and fighting in the situation; in the end, both are killed by the Portuguese; but each finds their penance in holding to their faith.
A personal response to the text and some comments about how you could use the material for assessment tasks
This film is particularly powerful in the role of portraying the similarities between the role that faith and doubts have in situations with inevitable outcomes. Whilst Rodrigo and Father Gabriel knew that their enemy was more powerful, and indiscriminate to their attack, they each turned to what they believed would provide them with the fulfilment in their final moments. This text provides a catalyst to apply not only future assessment tasks, but in everyday life, to take a stand for what we have faith in, even when the outcome in inevitable, and our doubts present an option which may provide an alternative to the same ending.
The Mission highlights the verse from Matthew, where each character within the film inevitably chooses how they live their life.
The stylistic choices included in the filming present a variety of camera angles and sound production to highlight the key moments and convey the message and emotions of the characters and the environment they are in. These present a variety of opportunities for analysis and interpretation in future assignments as part of the Faith and Doubt course.
ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies (BSSS), (2013). English T. [online] BSSS Courses. Available at: http://www.bsss.act.edu.au/__data/assets/word_doc/0020/314264/English_T_06-15_updated_October_2013.docx [Accessed 27 May 2015].
Greydanus, S. (2014). Do atheists and agnostics make the best religious films? [online] Decent Films. Available at: http://decentfilms.com/new/articles/atheists-make-religious-films [Accessed 29 May 2015].
Okey, S. (2013). The Mission: Choose Your Own Penance. [online] Daily Theology. Available at: http://dailytheology.org/2013/02/27/the-mission-choose-your-own-penance/ [Accessed 28 May 2015].
The Mission. (1986). [DVD] United Kingdom: Roland Joffé.