InformationThe Film: Chocol?t
United States/United Kingdom, 2000
Running Length: 2:00
Director: Lasse Hallstr?m
Music: Rachel Portman
U.S. Distributor: Miramax Films
Plot SummaryThis film is an enchanting brew of confections and humanity. Where a shaman-like woman rides the North wind casting her spell of kindness to those in need; she visits town after town seeking battles with those who would take advantage, and attempt to lord over other poor souls.
She travels with her daughter, just as she had traveled with her mother. Carrying on a tradition of lifting the spirits of the downtrodden, with her magical unrefined cocoa and special chili pepper in the form of delicious, and addictive, chocolate creations.
Before long they meet and befriend travelers, one of whom becomes the object of her mother?s affections, who use the waterways to get from village to village instead of the wind; however, these merry people are looked down upon as undesirables in the way she and her mother are.
The Count(mayor)eventually becomes enraged at having lost control of the villagers, and breaks into the chocolatery, gorging himself with the magical chocolate until he passes out from the intoxicating effects. He is gently awakened Easter Sunday morning by her mother. Where the Count, offers his heartfelt apology, and she graciously accepts, promising not to tell a soul.
Vianne and he decide to end their wandering ways.
And say, good-by to the North wind, and waterways.
It is time for someone else, to carry out their endless foray?s.
Style of the filmThe style reminds this reviewer of the Dickens tales produced on film; such as, Oliver Twist, and the many versions of the immortal, Christmas Story: the rustic settings, the shades of lighting, the mysterious mists, the music, the characters, and the narration. All combine to give a mystical, magical feel to this fable.
Key characters and their developmentJuliette Binoche portrays Vianne, an enigmatic, charming, yet scandal-baiting woman, with a gift of insight into what confection arouses her customers?but of course, any creation she chooses?includes the special intoxicating ingredient? Vianne is following a path, or calling of her maternal ancestors? the Mayans.
Victoire Thivosil portrays Anouk a near mirror image, in looks as well as manner, of her mother with the exception of her mother?s nomadic ways. She is lonely and unhappy, and at twelve years-of-age, wishes to settle in this tiny village, go to church, and have a sense of belonging, rather than uprooted from time to time.
Alfred Molina portrays the Count de Reynaud, who is the mayor of the village. He is a pious, yet strong willed, and slightly devious, character that cares about his village, its mores, and the tradition of tranquility developed by his ancestors. He is also struggling with an internal dilemma; his wife the Countess has left him.
Judi Dench portrays Armande Voizin, Vianne?s decadent and diabetic landlady, who flaunts her non-conformity to the dismay of her daughter, Carolyn. Vianne turns to her, of all people, for advice on how she and Anouk may be accepted by the town. ?Throw me a party,? is Armande?s reply, ?It?s my 70th birthday, let?s show the bastards we?ll go down singing.?
Aurtien-parent Koenig portrays Luc Clairmont, the inscrutable grandson who Vianne hires to draw a portrait of his grandmother Armande; actually, Vianne is breaking his mother?s ban on interacting with his grandmother.
Carrie-Anne Moss plays Carolyn Clairmont, Luc?s mother. She has recently become a widow who is, according to Armande, overly protective of her son. She is also the Counts secretary and object, though covertly, of his affections.
Peter Stormare portrays Serge Muscat the not so pleasant, nor bright, caf? proprietor.
Hugh O?Conor portrays the novice priest Pere-Henri who finally prepares his own homily for Easter services, delivering a message that relieves the villagers of their burden of self-denial and piety, and lifts their spirits for the coming year.
Key themes and their developmentThe key theme presented in the film seems to be, a substance in this case, cocoa mixed with a special chili pepper, a liberating, aphrodisiac; whereas, church and communities of faith are oppressive. In addition, should the river rats, gypsies, and wanderers, along with self-indulgent, suicidal old women and unwed mothers who sleep around, be held in high-esteem? Should humanity embrace the other ancient intoxicants: cocaine, hashish, tobacco, opium, alcohol, and heroin? One might wonder? why has Vianne been run out of village after village, and why does Anouk dislike chocolate? Why does she not know who her father is? Leads one to consider the messages being sent our children and us by filmmakers? does it not!
“Accually the movie is a delight to view; just don’t take it too seriously, like I was assigned to do.”