Chocolat and the Virtue of Independence

Brian’s article on the movie Chocolat talked about the challenge of pursuing ones values in the face of a community antithetical to those values. The virtue required for this kind of courage is independence. Independence is never placing anything above the sovereignty of one’s own mind and is a prerequisite to pursuing rational values. Chocolat dramatizes the existential results of a community of individuals devoid of independence and the transformation that occurs when this virtue is introduced in the character of Vianne and developed by several of the townspeople.

Initially the townspeople believed in “tranquility” which in the context set up in the movie meant conformity to community standards where everyone knew their place and acted as they were “expected” to act.

As the movie progresses the courage shown by Vianne begins to affect the other characters. This is most prominent in Josephine Muscat. Tied to an abusive husband she didn’t love, Vianne’s influence helps her develop the courage to leave him and begin a life on her own. The young boy Luc Clairemont dares to challenge his mother’s authority and choses to visit with his grandmother. And eventually his mother realizes her error in over- protecting her son and frees him to start thinking for himself.  Vianne’s young daughter Anouk, while precocious, was nevertheless tied to her imaginary kangaroo until the end of the movie when she lets him go. Even the mayor, the leader and promoter of the “tranquility” expected of the townspeople, eventually is released from the stifling conformity demanded by this “tranquility.” And finally Vianne herself, even though she showed a level of independence in the context of setting up her shop in the staid community, released herself from the “call of the north wind” that had destined her to constantly move from town to town introducing her chocolate to world.

The final scenes in the movie show the townspeople enjoying a lighthearted festival, Josephine enjoying her new restaurant, Vianne choosing to rejoin her romantic interest Roux, and Anouk’s kangaroo hopping away with Anouk saying she didn’t miss him. Compare these ending scenes to the beginning scenes and one can clearly see how independence plays a key role in the pursuit of rational values.  This dramatization of independence and the benevolent sense of life one feels at the end make Chocolat one of my favorite movies.

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