Chocolat

Cast
Comte de Reynaud Alfred Molina
Vianne: Juliette Binoche
Anouk: Victoire Thivisol
Roux: Johnny Depp
Pere Henri: Hugh O’Conor
Josephine: Lena Olin
Serge: Peter Stormare
Armande: Judi Dench
Miramax Films presents a film directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Written by Robert Nelson Jacobs. Based on the novel by Joanne Harris. Running time: 121 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for a scene of sensuality and some violence).

Central Theme
Narrow minds and exclusive souls make for unenlightened minds and condemning souls.

Story
Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) comes to a church-going, legalistic French village and opens up a chocolate store during Lent. Vianne, who doesn’t attend church, is rumored by the town to be an atheist, a radical and her pagan traditions are an irritant to the uptight mayor of the town, Comte de Reynaud. He tells everyone to boycott her store, but because of Vianne’s warmth and chocolate, she wins many of them over. Her ministrations bring romance back to a married couple, embolden an older man to declare his affections for a widow, free a battered wife to leave her husband and restore a grandmother’s relationship with her grandson.

After a group of river-rats drifters stop in town, the mayor tells everyone to “boycott immorality,” which basically means that no one is to associate with any of the drifters because they are not welcome. Vianne decides to broaden the minds of the villagers by including the drifters. Comte de Reynaud remarks that something needs to be done and an overzealous villager starts the river-people’s boats on fire.

Over the course of the movie we see Vianne transformed from a gypsy on the move to a woman who wants to stay put, and we see the mayor transformed from a legalist who proves his love for God by abstaining into a man freed from law and touched by grace.

At one level Vianne represents the grace-filled ministry of Jesus in stark contrast to the legalism of many churches. The church-going townspeople in the film in many ways represent the church-going people of today who are more narrow-minded than loving. Vianne comes into town, and immediately because she does not go to their church, there are rumors that she is a radical and an atheist. The leaders of the town and church deem her “the enemy”, and the mayor tells people not to go into her store, despite the fact that Vianne is probably the most loving and accepting person in the town. Furthermore, when the drifters come into town, they are deemed as immoral, and rather than try to help them or accept them into the town, everyone “boycotts” them, not letting them into their stores, not socializing with them. Except for Vianne, of course, who welcomes them into her chocolate store. The film preaches being open-minded and inclusive rather than condemning and exclusive, and in the end, Vianne’s attitude of loving others rubs off on the town.

Everyone in this film is a seeker. The townspeople are trying to seek acceptance from God through a legalistic adherence to their beliefs. The outsiders are seeking love and acceptance into a community. There are the drifters who live a lifestyle different than most, the battered wife who stands up to her abusive husband, the grandmother who has a fancy for provocative poetry and her grandson whose dark and morbid drawings and thoughts exclude him from the happy games of the other kids. These seekers are constantly turned away; they are used to the exclusion and have come to expect that people, especially the people in the church, will condemn and look down on them.

Too often Christians take the role of the judgmental religious townspeople in the film, in that they are not the loving and caring people who accept everyone. They protest, boycott, or try to disassociate themselves from people who are different. This combative attitude pushes people away from God’s message of love. If someone is different, then Christians deem them the enemy.

Unfortunately, Vianne’s paganism removes some of the potency of that comparison with Jesus, because Hallstrom implies that love, grace and tolerance are found in paganism not in Christianity, which is not true.

Jesus himself was deemed an enemy of the church-going Pharisees of his day. Why? Because he loved everyone, even the outcasts and the sinners. He went into Samaria when that was considered taboo. He ate with tax collectors. He talked with prostitutes. He was a friend of sinners. Jesus would have been the first one to party with the outsiders in the film, as Vianne did. However, the difference is that while hanging out with people, Jesus also shared with them the truth of God, while Vianne still rejects the church even after everyone has reconciled and the church is filled with joy and acceptance. While she does her part to help the church become more accepting and loving, she still tenaciously clings to her disbelief.

Beliefs num
–Grace is more effective than law in transforming people.
–Grace is more often found outside religion than in it.
–We should not measure goodness by what we don’t do, what we deny, what we resist and who we exclude.
–We should measure goodness by what we embrace, what we created and who we include.
–Fasting for Lent is bad.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–Do most churches measure goodness by what they don’t do and who they exclude or by what they embrace and who they include?
–Which is closest to the message and example of Jesus?

Provocative Quotes byline
–Once upon a time there was a quiet little village in the French countryside, whose people believed in tranquility¢â‚¬¦if you lived in this village you understood what was expected of you. You knew your place in the scheme of things. If you happened to forget, someone would remind you. In this village if you saw something you weren’t supposed to see¢â‚¬¦you learned to look the other way.
==Narrator in intro.
–The season of Lent is upon us. This is, of course, a time of abstinence¢â‚¬¦hopefully a time of reflection. Above all let it be a time of sincere penitence.
==Pastor sermons as written by Mayor.
–The bells are not meant as an entertainment, but as a solemn call to worship.
==Mayor to Vianne who enjoys the bells.
–That woman is brazen. My heart goes out to that poor illegitimate child of hers.
==Mayor spreading gossip.
–You and your truffles present a far lesser challenge. You’ll be gone by Easter I promise you.
==Mayor referring to historic battles with the Huguenots.
–The Maya believed cocoa held the power to understand hidden yearnings and reveal destinies. He had been raised a good Catholic, but in his love he was willing to bend the rules of courtship.
==Vianne’s father who bedded her mother without marriage.
–I should probably warn you. You make friends with us. You make enemies with others.
==Roux to Vianne.
–Is this a chocolateri or a confessional?
==Armande when Vianne is upset she hasn’t revealed her illness.
–Satan comes in many guises¢â‚¬¦in the lurid song you hear on the radio¢â‚¬¦the author of a salacious novel¢â‚¬¦the quiet man lurking in the schoolyard¢â‚¬¦and a times in the maker of sweet things¢â‚¬¦mere trifles, for what could seem more harmless¢â‚¬¦more innocent than chocolat.
==Pastor in another of the mayor’s sermons.
–I don’t believe anyone would think less of you if you told them she was never coming back again.
==Caroline reassuring Mayor.
–All my efforts are for nothing¢â‚¬¦I don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do.
==Mayor prays before going to destroy the chocolate, which ends in consumption of chocolate.
–I’m so sorry.
==Mayor apologizes to Vianne.
–I won’t tell a soul.
==Vianne responds.
–I’m not sure what the theme of my homily will be today. Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lords divine transformation? Not really. I don’t want to talk about his divinity. I want to talk about his humanity. I mean you know. How he lived his life here on earth¢â‚¬¦his kindness¢â‚¬¦his tolerance. Listen. Here’s what I think. I think we can’t go and measure our goodness by what we don’t do¢â‚¬¦by what we deny ourselves¢â‚¬¦what we resist and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace¢â‚¬¦what we create¢â‚¬¦and who we include.
==Pastor in his own words.
–It was not the most fiery sermon or the most eloquent. But the parishioners felt a new sensation that day. A lightening of the spirit¢â‚¬¦a freedom from the tranquility.
==Narrator.

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