Chocolat is one of my favorite movies. I’ve seen it 5 times and have developed a different take on the movie than the one normally discussed. As a Christian, we’re encouraged to be participants in the world and its cultures. We were never meant to be sequestered in a “holy huddle,” blocking out the world around us. Chocolat may depict the two opposing worldviews of sacred vs secular on the surface. I think this movie goes far beyond the seemingly obvious.
The Count: most agree he represents the rigid, legalism of the Christian stereotype. Stepped in tradition, he cannot/will not break from his traditional, “Pharisaic” behavior. He represents misguided faith that relies on works and “correctness.”
Vianne: rather than a metaphor for the culture that encourages indulging in desires, I see her living the Gospel of compassion, kindness and patience through her actions and relationships. She mysteriously appears in the lives of the townspeople and forever changes them, one person at a time. The movie never comes out and says she is a pagan, but the Mayan storyline creates the impression she is a non-Christian. For me, she represents a rejection of the Count’s version of religion. Just as Christ was considered an outsider with his “heretical” religious philosophies, Vianne is an outsider because she upsets the norm. In reality, she lives a more authentic Christ-like life than anyone else. She embraces second chances.
The wind: Depicted as “the winds of change,” it’s much more. Chocolat’s north wind is an unsettling force. It stirs up discomfort, threatening to upset the “tranquility” of lives. Not unlike what God does to us when we get too complacent and stuck in our comfort zones. Change blows into our lives uninvited and we are helpless to stop it.
Chocolate: the ultimate satisfaction and sweetness of life brought on not by indulging in our desires, but by living life with the full knowledge of how joyous and fulfilling it can be, once we are out from under the rigid legalism of misguided religion.
1. The Count’s temptation/rejection of his meager meal vs the chocolate birthday party: On the surface this scene depicts the dryness of the Christian life contrasted with the carefree indulging of the “secular.” I see it more as contrasting a faith lived like that of the Count (unfulfilling and starved for real sustenance) against what a person could enjoy through actually living the Gospel and developing relationships. The Count’s faith isolates him from developing relationships. A true faith shares the sweetness of life with others, welcoming a diversity of people. The pure enjoyment on the faces of the birthday partygoers represents tasting and seeing how good life can be!
2. The wind blowing the church doors open: I liked the analogy of the Count shutting out the winds of change by hiding behind his religion. I also see the wind as representing the freedom of the Spirit that stirs us up only to have a false sense of religion shut our hearts and minds to the real change needed to bring fullness of life. Without this wind blowing into our lives, we live in a dark world of religiosity and shallow faith.
3. The Count in the window of the Chocolate shop: Sooner or later, our legalism gets the best of us and we collapse under its pressure. The Count, in trying so hard to live up to an impossible standard, is finally overwhelmed by his sinfulness. When he wakes up to Vianne, he is not met with the retaliatory judgment he deserves, but with grace and forgiveness. It is a life-changing scene, not because he succumbs to the worldview of giving into desire, but because, for the first time, he experiences a real sense of what grace/forgiveness is all about. What better day for that to happen than Easter Sunday! The scene also shows how God takes seemingly destructive situations and bring good out of it. How many times has God used un-Christian-like situations/people to reinforce his sovereignty and forever change lives?
4. Armande Voizin’s comment to not be so concerned about “shouldn’t”: While it’s reasonable to view this as promoting a worldview of doing whatever you like, it can also be encouraging us to stop viewing our faith as a bunch of shouldn’ts—and ignoring the real message of the Gospel. Real Christianity is much more than a laundry list of what we “shouldn’t” do.
Two other character studies (I’m almost finished, I promise):
Pantoufle (Anouk’s imaginary friend): the imaginary crutches we cling to when faced with uncomfortable situations. What types of crutches do we use to help us deal with life? It’s only when we feel secure and content that these psychological afflictions heal and “hop” away, disappearing from our life. A secure, happy life only happens when we accept the Truth and put our faith in something more than ourselves.
Roux: eye candy, pure and simple. ☺