The Mission is one of my all-time favorite movies. It tells the story of Jesuit missionaries caught in conflict between Native Latin Americans and European slave traders. Set deep in the Amazon jungle in the 18th century, it is filled with cultural contrasts between Portuguese and Spanish colonists, indigenous tribal people, and Jesuit Priests. These three groups see the world very differently and (spoiler alert), the story does not end well.
The Mission shows the atrocities of colonial exploitation and the very real cultural tensions that existed in that time and place. Though the sad narrative offers little by way of solutions, the beautiful soundtrack communicates hope for something different. It contains the diverse sounds of Spanish guitar, a longing and expectant oboe melody, the plaintive voice of a soprano tribal boy, and tribal chants that merge with ancient church choir liturgy. The haunting melodies and harmonies woven by Ennio Morrison throughout the movie stand in stark contrast to the mess that plays out in the story. Check out this montage from the film.
The main musical theme, titled “On Earth As It Is In Heaven,” is a line taken from the Lord’s prayer in the Bible. It is a plea for the justice, beauty and goodness of God to descend to earth and bring about the perfect justice, beauty and goodness that is found in heaven. This would bring an end to ethnic and cultural tensions. People around the world would recognize that all of humankind is made in the image of God.
Fast-forward more than 200 years from the horrendous realities of the 18th century, and it is still painfully obvious that the only solution for our problems must miraculously come from above. Thus, we pray, “On Earth as it is in Heaven.”
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