Saturday, May 19, 2007

Gabriel's Oboe / The Mission Revisited

Watched most of The Mission again last night just to revisit the film and the roots of my oboe longings. I remember seeing this movie in the theaters when I was in middle school and being incredibly affected by it. Seeing it as an adult has just added more layers of association and meaning to the experience. Wow. I thought it was amazing back then, young as I was, but now I can really appreciate what Robert Bolt as a writer, Roland Joffé as director, and Jeremy Irons as an actor did to bring the story to life. Irons really co-created the character of Gabriel, who became my ideal for The Guy to Look For (sans the vow of celibacy, of course). (Actually, I wanted a combination of Gabriel and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, with maybe a little Russell Quinn from The Seventh Sign thrown in - and I gotta say, I found a guy who fit the bill pretty well!). Gabriel has it all - he is strong but gentle, quiet but courageous, deep-thinking but with a capacity for humor and playfulness, a man with intelligence and faith and who fights passionately for the rights of children and disadvantaged human beings. Plus he's cute, multilingual, and has musical talent. Take out the name Gabriel and insert my husband's name, and it's all still true. Wow.

There's a great chapter in The Oboe by Geoffrey Burgess and Bruce Haynes about that powerful scene in which Gabriel keeps playing his oboe despite the Guarani spears pointed in his direction. The authors write about the symbolic power of the oboe, of its music representing the penetration of Gabriel's message into the Guarani spirit. My 6-year-old happened to be watching with me, and he was completely riveted (just for that scene - then I tucked him into bed before watching the rest of the film). What is it about a scene that is compelling to a viewer whether he's 6 or 60? Well, here, first of all, the hero scaled a rocky cliff with an oboe strapped to his back. Okay, that got my attention. Then, later on in the scene, it was the music that mesmerized us, and Gabriel's courage in the face of life-threatening danger, his dignity, his faith, his creativity, and his respect for the Guarani.

There are so many other treasures in this movie for me. I've always had a special affection for the Jesuit order. I love how the Jesuits value education and the intellect, and actually put some THOUGHT into their faith. Ignatian spirituality, too, is full of gifts - reminders to see God in all things, to do things for the greater glory of God, to reflect on moments in which God's presence is palpable, to labor out of love "and not count the cost." And, speaking of Jesuits, I got such an insight into what my beloved saint, René Goupil, must have gone through as a missionary to the natives of Canada, traversing rough terrain and encountering all sorts of perils, hostility, and suffering. I also appreciated the glimpse into colonial life - the societal norms, the architecture, the religious customs - having come from a country which was a colony of Spain for hundreds of years.

People eagerly criticize institutional religion so much, and I would be the first to admit that I have dealt with many, intense frustrations with regard to the deep wounds it can inflict. But this movie shows the precious heart of religious faith as I think its founders would have wished it to continue. It's at the grassroots level, with remarkable individuals like Gabriel - with the "little" people - that religious faith can shake off all the encumbrances and formalities that weigh it down, and the things that really matter can shine through. Love always, do not pass judgment or count yourself above another, show mercy, abhor violence, take care of each other...these are the "laws" that govern the truest followers of Jesus exemplified in the fictional character of Gabriel.

I was so exhausted from work yesterday that I didn't get to practice (I was kind of using The Mission as my vicarious oboe dose for the day). Today I tried a long F and got a renewed appreciation for the purity of that adagio in Albinoni's concerto in D. I doubt I could ever be advanced enough to play anything like that, but a girl can have SOME goals and dreams, right? So my little goals are to get some good basics down this year. Already I think I figured out how to make my starting notes a little better (I was able to do that tonguing thing, albeit inconsistently, better on notes that were in the middle of a measure, but initial notes - the "attack"- had always been a problem). It does work to think of saying "Tu." I confess after exercises I indulged again and sight-read the first half of O Come O Come Emmanuel just to see if I could do it. Can't wait till I can do it smoothly and make it SOUND like it's coming from an oboe!

I found a video clip on Youtube of Ennio Morricone conducting an orchestral version of Gabriel's Oboe. *sigh* Like I've said, a girl can dream, right?


C.J. said...

Keep dreaming. miracles happen when they least expect it.

First time reader. I enjoyed your blog.

T. said...

Hi, C.J. - Thanks for visiting!

I'll dream on...