Have you seen The War of the Vendée?
Today being the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, Mary Rose noted that it would be a good day to watch this new movie about a group of rebels in western France who sacrificed all to fight back against the government's religious persecution of Catholics during the French Revolution. She got the DVD for her birthday just a couple of weeks ago, and this would be our third viewing the kids are clamoring for. So, yes, you could say we are quite fond of The War of the Vendée.
There is much to love in the latest film from Navis Pictures. The story of the people of the Vendée region in western France who formed a resistance army against the powerful 'enlightened' French government is as inspiring as it is timely. The rag tag band of soldiers at once calls to mind the colonists of the American Revolution facing the mighty British army as well as the fellowship of hobbits, dwarves, elves and men facing the mighty gates of Mordor. Director Jim Morlino merrily helps this comparison along of course- part of Mr. Morlino's expert use of comic relief at just the right moments involves his delight in referencing his favorite classic good-versus-evil films. You have to love a movie that comfortably refers to St. Louis de Montfort one moment and Aragorn the next. But not only through humor does he remind us that this struggle is like so many others throughout history and throughout literature, and we are left to contemplate what is our part to play in our own stories and our own fight to defend what is true and good and beautiful.
And the portrayal of our Catholic Faith in this movie is indeed very beautiful. The images of the faithfulness of the Vendéans and their devotion to the Church, the celebration of Holy Mass and the reverence of the people make up some of the most stunning moments of the film. The faith of children, which Our Lord Himself calls us to imitate, actually He requires it with one of His 'unless you' statements as in Matthew 18:3, is presented so clearly it serves to put us jaded grownups to shame. For example, the scene of 'give me one Pater Noster' is one that will surely stay with me as a reminder of just how simple the concept of forgiveness really is, and how we don't have a chance of obtaining it ourselves if we can't extend it to others.
Mr. Morlino achieves this truly expert portrayal of child-like faith by his totally unique and innovative approach to filmmaking: using a cast composed entirely of children. Not just any children mind you, but Catholic homeschooled children whose love for the art of film and love for the Faith shines blazingly through in every frame. They are telling an important story and they know it, they are defending their beloved Faith and they believe in it, they are clearly all having a grand old time making a movie, and as is the way with young people - it all shows. Their innocence and enthusiasm and purity and courage and love and faith and passion and joy are the real thing - the kind that only children possess. That more than makes up for any possible lack stemming from having an all children's cast in a low budget film. The suspension of disbelief is swift and simple and complete as you enter the world of these young master storytellers and sit back and enjoy their tale. It is fitting that the battles are fought and the most heinous of crimes are told of without needing to portray graphic violence, and the low tech special effects are just enough to move the story along while keeping it suitable for viewing by the whole family. This is a rare treat indeed.
The story is one that we don't hear much about in the history books and yet is such an important part of the life and trials of the Church. We need the reminder of how peoples in other times and places had to fight and sacrifice their very lives for their Faith and that we should not take our own religious freedoms for granted, particularly as our own government is currently attempting to whittle them away. We would do well to remind ourselves and our children that our Faith is the most precious thing in the world, and we should be prepared to do whatever it takes to preserve it.
So if you don't already have a copy, consider heading on over to Navis Pictures and ordering up a DVD. The story is compelling and the cinematography stunning. The fully orchestrated and professionally recorded score is truly fabulous and the beautiful music adds an epic feel to the whole film. The cast of children will entertain and surprise and impress you. Mr. Morlino's clever sense of humor will make you laugh, though his beautiful and talented offspring might make you cry. And the brilliance of our beloved Faith may shine more clearly in the hearts and minds of your young ones. Surely they will don Sacred Heart badges, wield their rosaries, and play at taking up their sticks and swords and shields to face the enemy, for God and King.
And the whole family will revel in the reminder that there is still Good in this world, and He's worth fighting for.
Note: I purchased this DVD myself and this is my honest review of the film, for which I received no compensation. And no, we don't even know the Morlinos! (though surely Josiah would love to run off and make movies with them) I really think it's a film every Catholic kid should have the opportunity to see. We also enjoy Navis' St. Bernadette of Lourdes, though The War of the Vendée is even better.