The Mission (film)

The Mission (film)

Infobox Film
name = The Mission

caption = Original movie poster
director = Roland Joffé
producer = Fernando Ghia
David Puttnam
writer = Robert Bolt
starring = Robert De Niro
Jeremy Irons
Ray McAnally
Aidan Quinn
Cherie Lunghi
Liam Neeson
editing = Jim Clark
distributor = Warner Brothers
released = Spain:
29 September, 1986
United States:
31 October, 1986
runtime = 126 min.
language = English
country = United Kingdom
budget = $17,218,000
music = Ennio Morricone
awards =
imdb_id = 0091530

"The Mission" is a 1986 British film about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in eighteenth century South America. The film was written by Robert Bolt and directed by Roland Joffé. It stars Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally, Aidan Quinn, Cherie Lunghi and Liam Neeson. It won the Palme d'Or and the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. In April 2007, it was elected number one on the "Church Times" Top 50 Religious Films list. [] The music, scored by Italian composer Ennio Morricone, was listed at #23 on AFI's "100 Years of Film Scores".


The film is set during the Jesuit Reductions, a program by which Jesuit missionaries set up missions independent of the Spanish state to teach Christianity to the natives. It tells the story of a Spanish Jesuit priest, Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons), who enters the South American jungle to build a mission and convert a community of Guaraní Indians to Christianity.

He is later joined by a reformed Spanish mercenary, Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro), who sees the Jesuit mission as a sanctuary and a place of forgiveness for the murder of his brother.

Mendoza and Gabriel try to defend the community against the cruelty of Portuguese colonials (who are trying to enslave the Guaraní under the new powers granted by the Treaty of Madrid), Gabriel by nonviolent means and Mendoza by means of his military training. The mission, which was once under Spanish protection, has been handed over to the Portuguese while the Vatican (represented by Papal emissary Altamirano) has ordered the Jesuits to withdraw from the territory above the falls.

Eventually, a combined Spanish and Portuguese force attacks the mission and, failing to see the simple life of the Guarani as anything but threatening (contrary to Father Gabriel and Mendoza's experiences with them), kill many of them as well as all the priests. Father Gabriel is presiding over Benediction with the Guaraní women and children when he and several of the Guaranís are shot down, while Father Fielding (Liam Neeson), is shot dead by a soldier while escaping in a boat with two Indians. Mendoza dies after abandoning an opportunity to spring a trap on the attackers to save Guaraní children on a bridge. This presumably reflects the redemption he had been searching for.

Cabeza and Hontar, the Spanish and Portuguese authorities behind the attack, try to convince the Cardinal that the massacre was justified; the Cardinal feels otherwise. After cutting to a scene of surviving Guaraní children salvaging supplies from the burned mission and a broken violin from the river sailing away on a canoe, the film ends with the Cardinal simply staring at the camera.


*Robert De Niro ... Rodrigo Mendoza
*Jeremy Irons ... Father Gabriel
*Ray McAnally ... Altamirano
*Aidan Quinn ... Felipe Mendoza
*Cherie Lunghi ... Carlotta
*Ronald Pickup ... Hontar
*Chuck Low ... Cabeza
*Liam Neeson ... Fielding
*Bercelio Moya ... Indian Boy
*Sigifredo Ismare ... Witch Doctor
*Asuncion Ontiveros ... Indian Chief
*Alejandrino Moya ... Chief's Lieutenant
*Daniel Berrigan ... Sebastian
*Rolf Gray ... Young Jesuit
*Álvaro Guerrero ... Jesuit

Historical basis

"The Mission" is based on events surrounding the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, in which Spain ceded part of Jesuit Paraguay to Portugal. The movie's narrator, "Altamirano", speaking in hindsight in 1758, corresponds to the actual Andalusian Jesuit Father Luis Altamirano, who had been sent by Jesuit Superior General Ignacio Visconti to Paraguay in 1752 to transfer territory from Spain to Portugal. He oversaw the transfer of seven missions south and east of the Río Uruguay, that had been settled by Guaranis and Jesuits in the 1600s. As compensation, Spain had promised each mission 4,000 pesos, or fewer than 1 peso for each of the circa 30,000 Guaranis of the seven missions, while the cultivated lands, livestock, and buildings were estimated to be worth 7-16 million pesos. The movie's climax is the Guarani War of 1754-1756, during which historical Guaranis defended their homes against Spanish-Portuguese forces implementing the Treaty of Madrid. For the movie, a re-creation was made of one of the seven missions, São Miguel das Missões. [James Schofield Saeger (1995) "The Mission and Historical Missions: Film and the Writing of History." "The Americas", Vol. 51, No. 3, pp. 393-415.]

Father Gabriel's character is loosely based on the life of Paraguayan saint and Jesuit Roque González de Santa Cruz.

The waterfall setting of the movie suggests the combination of these events with the story of older missions, founded between 1610-1630 on the Río Paranapanemá above the Guaíra Falls, from which Paulista slave raids forced Guaranis and Jesuits to flee in 1631. The battle at the end of the movie evokes the 8-day battle of Mboboré in 1641, a battle fought on land as well as in boats on rivers, in which the Jesuit-organized, firearm-equipped Guarani forces stopped the Paulista raiders. [Saeger, "ibid."]

Awards and nominations

filename=Ennio Morricone-The Mission-Gabriel's Oboe.ogg
title=The Mission main theme
description=From The Mission soundtrack by Ennio Morricone

Academy Awards
*Best Picture – Fernando Ghia and David Puttnam (nominated)
*Best Director – Roland Joffé (nominated)
*Best Art Direction – Stuart Craig and Jack Stephens (nominated)
*Best Cinematography – Chris Menges (won)
*Best Costume Design – Enrico Sabbatini (nominated)
*Best Film Editing – Jim Clark (nominated)
*Best Original Score – Ennio Morricone (nominated)

BAFTA Film Awards
*Best Film – Fernando Ghia, David Puttnam and Roland Joffé (nominated)
*Best Director – Roland Joffé (nominated)
*Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Ray McAnally (won)
*Best Original Screenplay – Robert Bolt (nominated)
*Best Cinematography – Chris Menges (nominated)
*Best Costume Design – Enrico Sabbatini (nominated)
*Best Film Editing – Jim Clark (won)
*Best Film Music – Ennio Morricone (won)
*Best Production Design – Stuart Craig (nominated)
*Best Sound – Ian Fuller, Bill Rowe and Clive Winter (nominated)
*Best Special Visual Effects – Peter Hutchinson (nominated)

Cannes Film Festival
*Palme d'Or – Roland Joffé (won)
*Technical Grand Prize – Roland Joffé (won)

Golden Globe Awards
*Best Motion Picture - Drama (nominated)
*Best Director – Roland Joffé (nominated)
*Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama – Jeremy Irons (nominated)
*Best Screenplay – Robert Bolt (won)
*Best Original Score – Ennio Morricone (won)


ee also

*São Miguel das Missões (called the "San Miguel Mission" in the film)
*Iguazu Falls

External links

*imdb title|id=0091530|title=The Mission
*" [ The Mission] " at the [ Arts & Faith Top100 Spiritually Significant Films] list

###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
title=Palme d'Or
before="When Father Was Away on Business
after="Under the Sun of Satan"

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