In so doing the commodity market and global trade developed a new history for chocolate, one that makes it a very fitting liberator in the small French village depicted in the film.
This new history is a story of sweetness and power, that is, the power to define what constitutes refined taste (Mintz 1985). All these accounts relate how Spanish nuns or monks were the first to domesticate a bitter, cold drink judged to be "more fit for pigs than for human consumption" (compare Constant 1988, 29; Robert 1990, 20). Chocolate was supposedly tamed by adding heat, sugar, and more refined flavorings such as vanilla, cinnamon, amber, and musk. This triumphant transformation heralded the introduction of chocolate to European nobles at court. "Hot, flavored, sweet; virtually nothing recalled its savage origins and, throughout the seventeenth century, the brown ambrosia would attract new followers" (Schiaffino and Cluizel 1988, 18).
Chocolate has become one of the most varied and recognized of all food products. It can be seen as a symbol of many issues of human nature and the developed world has prospered and gained from its cultivation. Though its history also has a darker side, associated with the colonial forms of labor as well as the social and political condemnation of it as undesirable and even an illicit drug in some cases.
Brief Synopsis of the Film Chocolat
The 2000, film Chocolat is a rich and exciting story of a small village in France, where most of the inhabitants are caught up in a web of denial and drabness created by the ardent faith of the Comte Paul de Reynaud, and the structured sense of denial of pleasure and even truth as the right way to live. The town is inhabited by drab and mostly sad individuals with many secrets and a strictly enforced code of morals, until the first day of lent, in 1957, when a young woman and her illegitimate daughter arrive, with the north winds of change and open a chocolaterria. The presence of the establishment and the power the chocolate has over the towns inhabitants is intoxicating and sensual as new relationships are forged and old relationships that are not working, but are consecrated by God, are severed.
As, lent is a time of fasting and self-denial the entrance of such an establishment and the blasphemous wanderer Vianne challenges the Comte, who wages a war against her and also attempts to boycott a gathering of river gypsies who happen into the town and who are led by Roux, Vianne's love interest. The narration of the work even refers to the war as one between the chateau and the chocolatarrie, a religious crusade of sorts. The town resists the temptations of Vianne, despite the constant recognition that having her and the sweets there makes the lives of some of the inhabitants so much better, exciting passions long though to be dead, saving women from abusive husbands, reuniting estranged grandchildren to eccentric grandmothers and mourning mothers, as well as breaking the code of silence about all things hidden, good and bad.
The changes within the town only become accepted, with the coming of the Easter holiday, when Vianne is informally accepted, and decides to stay, having spilled the majority of her wandering mother's ashes across the landing of the stairwell in an argument with her daughter while Vianne is trying to leave, once again with the north winds of change. The "progressive" townspeople including Josephine, a woman Vianne shelters from an abusive marriage and Caroline the Comte's secretary and love interest, that he has denied himself because he cannot accept that his wife has left him, mount all the work needed to hold Vianne's desired chocolate festival, as a way to ask her to stay and in effigy of the most progressive of the townspeople, who has recently died. The diabetic Armande was the only person there who really truly understood the need to live life to the fullest, and who asked for a party to celebrate her 70th birthday, which ended in a dance aboard Roux's boat, and her own death from diabetes. The boat was burned as they all lay sleeping, by Serge, Josephine's abusive husband, which causes Roux to leave, even after the two have consummated their love for one another. Serge's confession to the Comte, awakens the Comte's understanding of the error of his ways and creates his own long awaited awakening. Yet, Roux returns with the southern summer wind and Vianne flings the ashes of her wandering mother from the window, letting it blow away with her desire to continue to wander and the nature of the town is forever changed as the humanity of the lord is embraced and as the many years of denial are squelched. (Jacobs 2000) "Vianne in Chocolat brings the community together in the grand festival on Easter afternoon."
How Chocolate is the Thematic Link Between Old and New
The film is a modern adaptation of change and progressivism as a social movement toward modernity, and globalization and the chocolate is the element that expresses the thematic realization of change. The old drab, highly mournful atmosphere of the village is transformed though the chocolate, that is developed as much for the pleasure it gives as for the medicinal purposes of it, and as a connection to the wandering spirit of Vianne's wandering mother, who was a wandering cocoa healer from Central America, who married a French apothecary. (Jacobs 2000)
The film marks the change from conservative values, associated with the Roman Catholic church the 1950s and many decades before them Davies 15)
Laubier 28) and the chocolate is the medicine that brings the village to a new understanding of faith, a kinder more gentle expression of the desires of the lord, and an expression of the lord's humanity.
Lasse Hallstrm's Chocolat (2000),...use women's gender difference in conjunction with discussions of spirituality and the theological concept of grace. This grace is bestowed freely through the women's gifts of food and feasting. Contemporary versions of the 1940s and 1950s genre of the "women's film, "... universalize the possibility of grace.
Grace is created through the symbolic nature of the domesticity and skill of the women as well as through the many representations of religious and social needs, that are reflected in the skill of the purveyor to demonstrate social healing.
Grace is usually defined as unmerited divine love and favor given freely to humans by God; it is also that divine influence that operates in humans to regenerate or sanctify. Grace often comes as a surprise, humans understanding it only in retrospect. How to deal with the conflict between grace and free will consumed Catholic theology for hundreds of years. Heretics were burned, and works were banned on the basis of one's attitude toward grace. As in these religious definitions, the grace proffered by Babette in Babette's Feast and Vianne in Chocolat...is given without conditions, and its acceptance changes the human community." (Mcfadden 118-119)
The grace that is expressed in the fiber of the film Chocolat demonstrates the historical sense of the value of women's work and often their capacity for forgiveness, as well as stark denial of rights when they have been wronged. Vianne is a character who bestows grace with her gifts of chocolate, but also takes away assumed and wrongfully given grace, on the part of the community by openly expressing the secrets of the inhabitants of the town. The feasts, at both the party for Armande and the festival of chocolate demonstrate a renewal of grace, a reminder to the people of he village, who will listen, that the world is full of splendor as well as self denial, and that those things should be embraced to feed the soul.
The proclamation of an unconditioned grace-which demands nothing, save the acceptance of faith-can be greeted by reason only with incredulity. What needs to be 'sacrificed,' therefore, is not human rationality, without qualification, but rather the legalistic mentality of the natural man. As Luther put it, grace must 'take us out of ourselves,' and we must learn to 'rise above reason." 9 Thus, the miraculous feasts in all three films; these events are literally transcendent, as characters are surprised out of their old selves.
The idea that Vianne is a pagan also comes into play as the representation of a simpler life. Vianne, represents the giver of grace (the Christ figure if you will
Mcfadden 126) through simpler means, through the unconditional and through a quiet wisdom, rather than through rancor and discontent, mnet as that which is spewed from the mouth at the pulpit, in the case of the film the puppet of a priest that the Comte, is trying to mold into a conservative, rather than loving figurehead.
Grace in Chocolat is bestowed in quite different ways, as the religious conflict here is not between Protestants and Catholics,…