Temptation is all around us. From frivolous, extravagant purchases to the simple joys, we all encounter them in some form or another. Christ walked this earth as a man and faced many similar challenges – we, however seem more susceptible to luring pursuits, but like Jesus have the option to say “no.” Being the son of God gave Him no “special” privileges for resistance, contrary to secular belief. Miramax’s 2000 film Chocolat concocts an array of tempting concepts, or more precisely: confectionary delights but like so many other stories, the script goes much deeper than that.
Its premise brings two red-cloaked figures into a small, tight-knit village one blustery night where villagers quickly pass judgment. The pair is a strong-willed businesswoman named Vianne and her young daughter. Quickly the two set to work opening a shop which angers its town father. In Vianne, they see a threat that could disrupt their “proper” ways of life. Because she doesn’t change her flamboyant lifestyle to appease their set of rules, they whisper about her behind her back. Irrespective of the considerable weight the mayor carries with him, Vianne still finds kindred spirits in a number of people. It’s these relationships that win her some respect. Most of the villagers are willing to stand with her, to encourage her on the good she’s doing when circumstances become difficult.
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I don’t remember a lot about the first time I saw this, but what I do recall with vivid clarity was just how much I fell in love with the unusual but magical fable. It was like a fairy-tale but with a darker, more realistic slant that made it more relatable to audiences. The word “tempt” often associates with the ancient Biblical story of Satan’s tempting of Eve. This story isn’t connected to a Christian viewpoint but its parallels cannot be mere coincidence either. Unlike Eve, who knew exactly what she was doing was wrong, Vianne isn’t in the wrong.
The film tends to paint a picture of deceit and almost is asking us to believe that maybe she does have a hidden agenda – and she does: helping people. I simply do not buy that her motives were anything but selfless. She attempts to run a legitimate business, making a life for herself and her daughter in a place that could be “home,” but she’s also has a burdne to help people. Fortunately for Vianne, her life doesn’t “end” because of a staid, older man’s bid to be rid of her, nor was she banished from a perfect world.
Still to this day, this is one of the most captivating stories in cinema. Not only do people judge Vianne for the way she lives her life, but the people who are most critical aren’t above reproach. One man stands up against impropriety yet he isn’t willing to come clean about both he and his wife’s faults. If you were to take a microscope to the villagers in the tiny place, you probably would uncover many flaws in its people. All God expects is for us to do our best; to be able to look at the next with a clear conscious. Recently did re-watch this and am struck by its thought-provoking script; this is especially true of the young cleric’s sermon.
During one of the mayor’s weakest moments he succumbs to temptation and is then found out. In turn, this inspires the young man to take back his free speech rights by preaching a homily that is entirely his own reflections, and not subject to approval. In it he encourages his parishioners not to measure goodness by what we may deny ourselves but rather by what we *embrace*; what we create… and who we include. It’s preceded by his questioning how Jesus Christ lives here on earth and not just His ultimate death on the cross but by His humility; that He’s a man and lives as one.
Most consider chocolate a little, innocent piece of “sin,” especially women. Luckily for me, I inherited my mother’s tendency not to crave sweets, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a piece of candy as much as the next person. Scholars, pastors and every-day Christians who enrich their daily walk through prayer believe we sin every single day in thought, word and deed. That we cannot “help” ourselves. That poses interesting scenarios. Do you believe that? Do you believe that there isn’t a single person who can survive a length of time without sin? That no one is faultless — that babies are sinful?
My mother is one not among that belief. At the end of the day, no matter our convictions, it comes down to you and God. We have a free will and with that comes moral obligations; to chose right vs. wrong. To use the brain God gifts us, and automatically know the path less taken is usually better. Is it wrong to see something in a store window and think – that dress is gorgeous; and it’s on sale today, too! Maybe… but is it a sin? Fortunately, I don’t judge that nor do I believe it to be. Is God going to prohibit us entrance into Heaven because we bought that little black dress we didn’t need? Coveting something that is not ours or belongs to someone else and buying a frivolous purchase are two completely different things. Will life go on without that LBD? Yes, of course it will. Nevertheless, there isn’t a lot asked us by God, even though many find it daunting, His requests and commandments are very clear-cut for anyone willing to follow.
So, come on — be honest, what are your little “guilty pleasures”? Is it a fabulous new pair of shoes (I love shoes!) or perhaps that illusive collector’s edition book? Maybe, an awesome surround-sound system … Or is it as close as your local grocery store in a simple, decedent, rich box of chocolates.