Set in 1950’s France, Chocolat is a film centred on the Catholic virtue of temperance, or rather the struggle to achieve temperance when the church is faced with the temptation of a 2000 year old chocolate recipe. Temperance is defined in the catholic encyclopaedia as “the righteous habit which makes a man govern his natural appetite for pleasures of the senses in accordance with the norm prescribed by reason”, and in Chocolat it is the Comte de Reynaud, the major and self appointed moral authority for the whole community, that attempts to keep check of the villager’s carnal passions and temptations.
There is an obvious conflict between the Comte and Vianne Rocher, the single mother who arrives in Lansquenet bringing a splash of red to the dreary black and white town, who eventually through her chocolates breathes life into the town’s dead system that the Comte had gone to great lengths to preserve. Religious themes such as temperance, penance and reconciliation are central to how the film works as a film, and clearly demonstrate how it is highly conducive to theological exploration. The theological theme that I am going to explore in more detail is the Catholic sacrament of Confession and Penance, taking into consideration the relationship between the traditional Catholic view of confession and the ideas of the sacrament that I bring to the film as a viewer.
As the story opens, Vianne and Anouk are carried by a strong north wind to a small, quiet village in France around the year 1959. Possibly the wind motif, that is constant throughout the film, is a parable for the theological theme of the Holy Spirit, acting as the principle force that has drawn Vianne to the village. The wind could also be perceived as representing the...
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... life” , and as a result of the Comte’s oppressive code of moral conduct, the people of Lansquet had forgotten the final part of this statement, the importance of living. Vianne and her chocolates remind the villagers of what their faith and lives really mean. Temperance is certainly an important virtue, people must restrain from temptation in some aspects of their life, but Vianne and her chocolates teach people that in the pursuit of temperance one must not forget the most important virtue, love .
The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version (1995)
New Catholic Enclopedia, Volume III and Volume IV, McGraw-Hill Book Company (1967)
Walsh, Michael J, COMMENTARY on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Geoffrey Chapman (1994)
Barsotti, Catherine M and Johnson, Robert K, Finding God in the Movies: 33 Films of Reel Faith, Baker Books (2004)