FILM REVIEW: The War of the Vendée

“They have killed our temporal king. Now they want to kill heavenly king. Who is worth fighting for, and even dying for, if not Him?”

That is a line from the soon-to-be released film by Navis Pictures called The War of the Vendée.

I received a review DVD today and watched it this evening.

Given the professional beginning, with the good score, I was soon scratching my head at age inappropriate actors. They were far too young and, as young actors, they performed, well…. like young actors. I started to wonder how I could write positively about this film. My suspicion that I was missing something of critical importance drove me to the Navis Pictures website, which has as its goal the creation of a new genre of film: Children’s Cinema.

The some 250 young actors in this film are all under 21.  This is, therefore, a direct contradiction to the old adage about never working with kids.

I don’t know how it escaped me, but I didn’t know about this aspect of the film before I stuck the DVD into the machine!

Navis, which means ship in Latin, like the Barque of Peter, wants to inspire young people to get into the film industry and other performing arts at a young age, presumably to begin to transform the industry from within. The director, Jim Morlino – yes, like the bishop but not too closely related he tells me – explains his project in a 3 minute video HERE.  Great idea!

Once you give yourself over the fundamental point of this project, this genre, you look past the rough spots, and enjoy the production immensely.

I suspect this film will be inspiring to children, both because the story is historically important but also because it is by young people for young people.

The music score was very good. The composer, Kevin Kaska, was top notch (which is one of the reasons why I was puzzled at the beginning by the age of the actors). Kaska orchestrated the music for the Batman movie The Dark Knight, and the The Passion of the Christ.  The War of the Vendée is Kaska’s second film as a composer.

If I ever get that three-hour a day call-in talk radio show, I will probably ask Navis for permission to use a clip from for my bumper music.

Of liturgical interest are portrayals of Holy Mass. I was outraged… outraged, I say, to see a maniple on the right arm of the young actor priest! Can you imagine?   If people are going to make movies about the old days, why don’t they talk to someone who knows what’s what?  And the Latin… mon Dieu!  (I’m kidding, of course.)  Later in the movie, for Mass before a battle, they get the maniple right… er left…

[UPDATE: I had a note from Jim Morlino of Navis Pictures who wrote: “RE the maniple – scene was originally shot with the correct placement of the maniple (I and many in the film are TLM folk) Due to an error on my part in maintaining “screen direction” for the Mass scene, I had to digitally “flop” the shot, and so, the Maniple appears to be on his right arm…when in fact it was correctly placed on his left arm the entire time. I knew that was going to raise some hackles, but there was nothing I could do about it.”  No hackles from Fr. Z, Jim.  I was yankin’ yer chain.]

The age of the actors sometimes made it difficult to know who was intended to be an adult and who was a child.  The fact that these were kids, meant that they weren’t using real guns.  They had to add effects, but they did a pretty good job.  And there is a battle scene that turned out pretty well, along with a “follow the bullet” moment and the death of a good guy.

I loved the bad guy official of the Republic with the braces on his teeth.

Another point is the prominent positive role of the female characters.  This is perhaps best captured in the line: “Men of the Vendée, either pick up your weapons now, or we will wield them for you!”

In the balance, the filmmaker and composer and these kids told a good story and they told it well.  There were moments of humor, but serious things are presented throughout about Catholic identity, faithfulness, the role of men and of women in life, honor, and the virtue of religion.

It is timely that this film comes out even as governments are today attacking freedom of religion and the Catholic Church.  I could well imagine a parish screening with a discussion period before and after, especially talking about contemporary attacks on the Church and our  future choices.

We may need inspiration from the men and women of the Vendée again, and very soon.

Here is the trailer:

[wp_youtube]Tk8ORQZUdqs[/wp_youtube]

The disk has French and Spanish subtitles, director and cast commentary tracks, widescreen options and is regionless.

They are giving a 50% discount to customers in France!

And do they need it!  This film comes at a time when we need that New Evangelization of which Pope Benedict has spoken.

It is good to see Catholic films being produced by and for young people. The War of the Vendée could introduce children (and their parents) to this important moment in our Catholic history. If there is sometimes a family playhouse feeling to the film, it also teaches about a dark time in our larger Catholic family history about which every Catholic should know. Thus, The War of the Vendée will clue a wider (and younger) audience into that period in France’s bloody history, just as There Be Dragons did to a certain extent about the Spanish Civil War, or Of Gods and Men did about the monks who were martyred in Algeria.

There is a moment in the movie which echos Navis’ “Children’s Cinema” purpose of the film.

A little boy playing a little boy, Remy, is not permitted to attend a meeting of adults (played by boys… it can get confusing). When Remy pouts, his sister (I think) remonstrates with him saying”

“Remy, don’t be so anxious to be older. Can’t you stay young just a little while longer?
“Being young’s no fun. Who wants to be a child?
“I know someone who wants everyone to be like a child. Someone who knows your name and who loves you so much He became a child Himself.”
[She gives little Remy a patch that the men wear. He says:]
“Now I’ll look just like papa when he was my age!”

The film, with its high production values, does indeed look like a grown up film.

I imagine that these kids had a blast making this movie. You and your children will enjoy watching it.  They will probably want to be more Catholic.

Will we be as ready and the men and women of the Vendée?

They were willing to fight and even die for the honor of their Heavenly King and Holy Mother Church.

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, REVIEWS, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to FILM REVIEW: The War of the Vendée

  1. Geoffrey says:

    Thank you for this post, Father. I saw heard about this film a few months ago and was very excited… then I viewed the trailer and became quite confused. Your review has given me hope!

  2. A great theme for a movie! I have lectured on the Vandee in all my courses on modern Catholicism and always thought that it would be a great topic for a movie. It is hopeless to expect the bigots of Hollywood to make a great movie on this this, but when is an independent going to do something that is going to make it into the regular cinemas. It certainly has enough violence potential. Too bad that Mel Brooks has turned himself into a self-parody.

  3. Jim Dorchak says:

    Our family loves the Morlinos. Good, Solid and Catholic to the core and long time family friends. We have already ordered our copy from their web site. If this film is as good as their last ( and we heard it is better) then it will be a lenten classic in our house! Just cant wait to see it.

  4. digdigby says:

    Which just reminds me yet again – WHEN is CRISTIADA going to finally be released???
    I’ve been waiting two years to see Father Peter O’Toole!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pu4gst3FmI

  5. Geoffrey says:

    “Which just reminds me yet again – WHEN is CRISTIADA going to finally be released???”

    I have been waiting for that as well. And I am still waiting for “Under the Roman Sky (Sotto il cielo di Roma)” staring James Cromwell as Ven. Pope Pius XII. The trailer looks great and I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting… I am beginning to the that the Second Coming might occur before finally getting to see this!

    http://youtu.be/RC6jznmx4u4

  6. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Quelle sorte de Messe est-ce qu’on celebrait
    au temps de la guerre de la Vendée? :-)

  7. Kerry says:

    My splendid wife, of splendid knitting and sewing, has recently begun embroidering crosses onto her T-shirts. Now they are showing up on the bottom of pants legs. Our Ignatius Press catalog arrived yesterday where we saw this film’s DVD advertised. I think soon we will both be wearing Sacred Hearts on our sleeves and chests. Her attitude is an, “Oh yeah, well take that! This is what we believe!!” (I’m an “Oh yeah! Go pound sand!!” guy myself.) “IHS”

  8. digdigby says:

    I figured it out! The producers of Cristiada are waiting till the movie is more ‘timely’ and America’s Catholics are in the hills with guns fighting the second Obama administration’s persecution of the church for ‘hate speech’.

  9. Tim Ferguson says:

    Reverend and most dear Fr. Augustine – I suspect that was a wonderful malapropism, and that you meant to say that Mel Gibson has turned himself into a parody. I don’t think Mel Brooks has ever been anything but a parody, but thanks for the unintentional giggle here.

  10. smmclaug says:

    “I suspect this film will be inspiring to children, both because the story is historically important but also because it is by young people for young people.”

    And in this you would me quite mistaken. It is a very common contemporary mistake, the kind that led George Lucas to cast an absurdly young (and groan-inducingly bad) child actor in the role of Anakin Skywalker. It’s an amateur mistake, one that’s forgivable in a professional clergyman, but not in a professional movie-maker.

    Here’s the deal: Young people’s imaginations–and particularly those of young boys–simply DO NOT WORK THAT WAY. You know who I wanted to be when I was a kid? Perseus from Clash of the Titans (I haven’t got there yet, but just you wait…). I didn’t want to grow up to be a little kid. You know who was the most captivating character to me in The Sound of Music? It wasn’t the little Trapp children, it was Mr. von Trapp himself. This is especially true of little boys, less so of little girls.

    Casting a movie for young people that includes nothing but minors is a terrible mistake and the truth is most children are far more discerning than we give them credit for. Children don’t care so much about the protagonist per se, and they don’t have to admire him that much–sometimes it can help if they see the story through a child’s eyes, but even in that case the child will be captivated by the characters the young protagonist is encountering more than the child himself. Sticking with Star Wars, who do you think was most interesting to kids–the cute little Ewoks, Luke Skywalker, or Han Solo? To ask it is to answer it. They are amused by the Ewoks, they can relate somewhat to Luke because he’s a normal guy, but they really can’t get enough of Solo, whose character arc is the most interesting because he learns and changes the most, but also because he’s the most “grown up.”

    In short, a movie by kids for kids will never stay with them for long. These kinds of failures to get the basics right are one reason why “conservative” movie-making is in such dire straits.

  11. Blue Henn says:

    I actually know a few of these kids in this movie, and I think the idea is a great one.
    A movie casting all minors is a wonderful idea, especially if children younger than 8 are watching. What little child doesn’t idolize their older siblings, especially little boys? There are enough minors in this movie that are 14 and over for younger children to immortalize. Teenagers usually equal grownups but cooler in the eyes of young children.

  12. There is talk of “Cristiada” (which, according to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhE7AkTW-lg, is being renamed “For Greater Glory”) being released on June 1, both on its official Facebook Wall (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cristiada/313576978430?sk=wall&filter=12) and at this link: http://www.movieinsider.com/m9908/for-greater-glory/

  13. Of course, back in the day in France, someone who was fourteen or fifteen was a man or woman grown, ready to do an adult’s work and old enough to get married. (Though I think they usually waited a bit longer, to amass dowries or get enough money to support one’s own.)

    So it’s not really that off, in terms of age; it’s just that the older men and women aren’t there.

  14. Oh, and the priests went to junior seminaries back then (sometimes from junior high age or younger), so a young priest isn’t necessarily too young, either.

  15. Thom says:

    I’m not so sure as ‘smmclaug” that children won’t like this particular film because of the lack of adults in the cast, but there’s no doubt that, in general, kids prefer to see and read about the adventures that men and women have. I guess I’ll just have to show it to my kids and see for myself what they think.

    The idea of “children’s cinema” is an interesting one. I hope that it bears much fruit in the future.

  16. irishgirl says:

    I first heard of this film (and saw the same trailer) over at His Hermeneuticalness’ [Father Tim Finegan to the rest of us) blog a few months ago. Sounded pretty good.
    Of course, if you have read anything about what really happened in the Vendee, your hair would stand on end. The Revolutionary government had a scorched earth policy that drove the remnants of the Catholic and Royal Army into narrower and narrower enclaves until they were practically wiped out.
    Read especially Dr. Warren Carroll’s book, ‘The Guillotine and The Cross’-it tells at length what actually happened.
    And to this day, the descendants of those Vendeeans who survived the Revolution have never cared to commemorate Bastille Day. Too many horrible memories….I remember they were not too keen to ‘celebrate’ the bicentennial in 1989.
    The Vendee today is still the most Catholic part of France.

  17. smmclaug says:

    “What little child doesn’t idolize their older siblings, especially little boys?”

    And how much more do they look up to their fathers?

  18. haribo says:

    The maniple thing reminds me of the altar cards on display in the St. Peter’s sacristy, where the Last Gospel is placed on the right. The person who put them there obviously had no idea how they were used.

  19. HyacinthClare says:

    Kerry! Does your wife sell patterns?? WOULD she?

  20. Random Friar says:

    Very glad to hear Cristiada/For Greater Glory is finally coming out!

    Anyone have the inside scoop on “Under the Roman Sky?”

  21. jim morlino says:

    haribo, please see my note above re the maniple scandal
    and smmclaug….uh, on second thought…never mind.

  22. PAT says:

    I just ordered not only “The War of the Vendee” but also “St. Bernadette of Lourdes.” The trailers look wonderful. It takes only a few minutes of watching and absorbing the story to see past the ages of the young actors and into the roles that they are playing, and pretty darned well, too (much better than I could have done). I am very much looking forward to watching both DVDs, with kids and grandkids and just by myself. I think it’s a very worthwhile effort and I say Bravo! to the films’ producers.

  23. Ulrich says:

    Cristiada: According to its Facebook Page: World Premiere at Mexico City 20th april.
    Under the Roman Sky: This movie was already aired (at least) in Germany and Italy in 2010 on TV.

  24. antmcos says:

    As someone whose 2 daughters were privileged to be extras for a day for the guillotine scene in the movie, I cannot tell you what a privilege it was to be a part of this and for my children to have been led by Mr Morlino, and to witness the hard work and dedication and FAITH of all the actors. Most, if not all of the actors are catholic homeschooled children, not professional actors. We strive to teach and live the faith everyday, in all aspects of our lives. I am constantly inspired by these families, and in particular, the children, who will be left to defend the faith when we are gone. You cannot believe the zeal and love these children have for Our Lord. It gives me great hope. You have to view this movie through the lens of the eye of these innocent children. Their emotion is real, their faith is real, they are genuinenly Catholic, and this movie is another way of living that out. This was a labor of love and not a game of make believe. These are not paid actors who will sell their soul to pretend and become what they are not. What you see in this movie is who these kids are. I’m sorry that some of you cannot appreciate the sheer beauty of that. Perhaps you need to become more like children yourselves.
    We were at the movie premiere. I can tell you, everyone, man, woman, child, and priest, was riveted to the scene. Funny, my kids are currently upstairs, watching Navis Pictures movie on Bernadette, again. They identify with the characters because they are children. And they identify more with this movie than any of the others on Bernadette. I like that I am invited to see things expressed through the true faith of our children.
    Thank you to the Morlino’s for this gift and we’ll keep praying for you.

    Antoinette

  25. Jim Dorchak says:

    Smmclaug I would disagree with your statement;
    “In short, a movie by kids for kids will never stay with them for long. These kinds of failures to get the basics right are one reason why “conservative” movie-making is in such dire straits.”

    My children age from 20 down to 4 years old (1 girl 5 boys) . My oldest and my youngest still watch the earlier movie that the morlino family put out a few years ago called “Bernadette”. Every family should own a copy of this film. I think that you are shorting our children and this new movie at the same time.
    Your logic is like saying that adults will never watch or read comics, but when I see my wife’s grandmother (at 100 years old last week), read the comics every day and watches the oldies cartoons on TV it shows me that classics are timeless, even new ones.
    You see… when it is a classic it is a classic, and it was obvious to me in the movie “Bernadette”, that Jim Morlino gets it. So even though I chase the mail truck evey morning to see if my copy of this new movie has arrived, I am confident I will not be dissapointed.
    Smmclaug
    I am sure you will not be dissappointed when you recieve your copy in the mail as well (and I know you have ordered one so as to give them a fair shake right?). Give it a watch and then come back and let us all know how good it was.

  26. Terry1 says:

    Christada. A harbinger of events to come. http://the-american-catholic.com/2011/04/05/viva-cristo-rey/

  27. Pingback: SUNDAY EXTRA | ThePulp.it

  28. BaedaBenedictus says:

    The James Cromwell Pius XII film “Under the Roman Sky” is now available on Netflix streaming! Search for “Pope Pius XII” and you’ll find it.

  29. Jim Dorchak says:

    We got our movie in the mail last night. It was awsome!
    Thanks Jim Morlino and family for this work of art.
    When is the next one? I am ready to order now.

  30. Lynneol says:

    smmclaug: Do you have any children?

    My kids grew up watching Crayola Kids Adventure videos. Titles of the movies included “Trojan Horse”, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Gulliver’s Travels”. The movies were made for kids using all unknown (at the time) child actors in adult roles. My kids loved those movies so much they begged to watch them every day. Kids love to watch other kids in movies, especially when the child actors are playing adult roles.

    In the end what really matters is that the movie moves a child to be closer to God and their Catholic Faith.