THE MISSION: A Film Journal by Daniel Berrigan

THE MISSION: A Film Journal

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The peace activist and Jesuit priest has written an eclectic and personal journal of four months as an advisor and bit actor on a feature fin made in South America. There are, however, only tidbits on director Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields), Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons, filmmaking, South America, or life on the set; instead, people, places and images are simply starting points for disconnected homilies on despair, religion, social justice, and other larger issues. Berrigan's undisciplined prose is difficult, but the man himself does emerge with clarity. His awareness of worldly inequities truly imbues his every vision and experience. His notes are most fascinating as a study of an essentially spiritual man forced to play a part not only in a material world, but in a world where material serves celluloid; the other subjects are handled in too desultory a manner. The Jesuit missions upon which the film is based are described as truly new societies, ideal in conception, though flawed by the poisonous collaboration of Church and State. Jeremy Irons' efforts to submerge his ego into clerical humility briefly reveal the means of his art. The debate over the film's ending provides some focus, but the parameters of the discussion are frustratingly vague. There are moments of insight and clarity here, but generally Berrigan's arch, tropological style is overladen with metaphors, and the organization is annoyingly discursive, following every whimsy. In sum, his priestly abnegation has become self-absorption. And film fans beware--he gives away the ending.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1986
Publisher: Harper & Row