It's advertised as a "fable." That is probably close enough. It is a story that helps us to see the difference between being good and being pious.
-Review by Darrel Manson


This page was created on January 05, 2001
This page was last updated on May 16, 2005

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Directed by Lasse Hallstr?m
Novel: Joanne Harris
Screenplay: Robert Nelson Jacobs

Juliette Binoche .... Vianne Rocher
Lena Olin .... Josephine Muscat
Johnny Depp .... Roux
Judi Dench .... Amande Voizin
Alfred Molina .... Comte de Reynaud
Peter Stormare .... Serge Muscat
Carrie-Anne Moss .... Caroline Claimont
Leslie Caron .... Madame Audel
John Wood .... Guillaume Bierot
Hugh O'Conor .... Pere Henri
Victoire Thivisol .... Anouk Rocher
Aurelien Parent-Koening .... Luc Clairmont
Antonio Gil-Martinez .... Jean-Marc Drou
Helene Cardona .... Francoise Drou
Harrison Pratt .... Dedou Drou
Gaelan Connell .... Didi Drou
Elisabeth Commelin .... Yvette Marceau
Ron Cook .... Alphonse Marceau
Guillaume Tardieu .... Baptiste Marceau
Mich?le Gleizer .... Madame Rivet
Dominique MacAvoy .... Madame Pouget
Arnaud Adam .... George Rocher
Christianne Gadd .... Chitza Marion
Hauducoeur .... Gati Esteban

Produced by Alan C. Blomquist (executive), David Brown, Mark Cooper (co-producer), Kit Golden, Leslie Holleran, Meryl Poster (executive), Michelle Raimo (co-executive), Bob Weinstein (executive), Harvey Weinstein (executive)
Original music by Rachel Portman
Cinematography by Roger Pratt
Film Editing by Andrew Mondshein

Rated PG-13 for a scene of sensuality and some violence.

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Quicktime Trailer:
hi-res 26 MB 480x360
med-res 12 MB 320x240
lo-res 7 MB 240x180

1. Minor Swing 2. Main Titles 3. The Story of Grandmere 4. Vianne Sets Up Shop 5. Three Woman 6. Vianne Confronts the Comte 7. Other Possibilities 8. Guillaume's Confession 9. Passage of Time 10. Boycott Immorality 11. Party Preparations 12. Chocolate Sauce 13. Fire 14. Vianne Gazes at the River 15. Mayan Bowl Breaks 16. Taste of Chocolate 17. Ashes to the Wind/Roux Returns 18. Caravan

One taste is all it takes

When Vianne (JULIETTE BINOCHE), a mysterious stranger, and her child arrive in a tranquil French town in the winter of 1959, nobody could have imagined the impact that she and her spirited daughter would have on this community stubbornly rooted in tradition. Within days, Vianne opens a very unusual chocolate shop, filled with mouth-watering confections, across the square from the church. Her ability to perceive her customers' private desires and satisfy them with just the right confection, coaxes the villagers to abandon themselves to temptation. The resident nobleman and self-appointed leader of the town are shocked that Vianne is tempting the local townspeople with her delicacies. Fearing it will ruin his town, he pits himself against Vianne and tries to forbid anyone from entering her shop, hoping to run her out of town forever.

But when another outsider arrives, the handsome Roux (Johnny Depp), and joins forces with Vianne to liberate the town, a dramatic confrontation arises between those who prefer the ways of the past and those who revel in their newly discovered taste for pleasure.
? Miramax

Pastor, Artesia Christian Church, Artesia, CA

It's advertised as a "fable." That is probably close enough. It is a story that helps us to see the difference between being good and being pious.

Click to enlargeA small French village is tranquil, until a wind-blown, free spirited woman (Vianne, played by Juliette Brinoch) arrives and opens a chocolate shop. And it happens during Lent. The battle begins between Vianne and the town's self-appointed moral guardian, the Comte de Reynoud (played by Alfred Molina).

Click to enlargeThe Comte's family has safeguarded the city and its morals since the first Comte expelled the Huguenots. And the current Comte takes his position very seriously. He fasts excessively during Lent. And the thought that someone would bring chocolate to town at such a time, he immediately assumes is sinful.

Click to enlargeAnd yet, chocolate is magic in this story. Vianne knows exactly what chocolate item will be each person's favorite. And it is the best chocolate in the world. Her chocolate brings change to this village. We see the change as good, but for some these changes threaten the very moral fabric of the village -- their world.

Click to enlargeAlthough the story takes place over more than a year's time, it always seems to be Lent in this village. That is the influence of the pious Comte. The chocolate shop is a constant reminder that there is pleasure in the world. And we see that pleasure is not a bad thing (how could any chocoholic think so?)Click to enlarge In fact, the chocolate shop is bringing good things into many lives. To lose the shop would be a catastrophe.

Does goodness win out over piousness and let the Comte find another kind of salvation?

Well, I know I'm not going to give up chocolate for Lent this year.

Darrel Manson
May 31, 2004

Having watched Chocolat several times over the last few years, some of my thoughts on it have changed a bit. This is often the case with films that are watched multiple times; we notice and connect things we may have overlooked before. One of the insights I have found in revisiting the film is that, although the film is set in Lent, it is very applicable to the festival of Pentecost.

The story of Pentecost is found in the second chapter of the book of Acts:

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force - no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn't for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept asking, ?Aren't these all Galileans? How come we're hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphilia,
Egypt and parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Evan Cretans and Arabs!

They're speaking our languages, describing God's mighty works!?

They're heads were spinning; they couldn't make head or tail of any of it, They talked back and forth, confused: ?What's going on here??

Others joked, ?They are drunk on cheap wine.?
(Acts 2:1-13 - The Message)

There are some interesting parallels to this in Chocolat, although I'm not sure they are necessarily intended. The first parallel is that Chocolat is very international in its cast and crew: Director Lasse Hallstr?m, his wife Lena Olin and Peter Stormare from Sweden; Juliette Binoche and Leslie Caron from France, Alfred Molina and Judi Dench from Great Britain; Johnny Depp from the U.S.; Carrie-Anne Moss from Canada; Hugh O'Conor from Ireland. In spite of the many nations represented, they are able to understand each other and work together. One of the keys to understanding the story of Pentecost is that nationality and language no longer separated God's people.

Also note the presence of the wind in both stories. In both Greek and Hebrew, the word often translated ?spirit? is the word for ?breath? or ?wind?. The story in Chocolat begins with a Sunday worship at the beginning of Lent. Soon we begin to hear the wind and see candles begin to flicker. A shot outside shows two hooded figures (who turn out to be Vianne and her daughter) coming into town amidst this blowing wind. Then the wind blows open the doors of the church! The Comte marches back and slams the door closed against the wind. What a great visual! And how true. The church is often the place most in need of the wind blowing into it, and also the place that is most resistant. Like the village, the church longs for tranquility and order. The Spirit keeps bringing challenge and chaos. The wind blowing Vianne into town is a hint for us that the power that brings her is not one that is controllable.

One of the things that started me thinking about the connection between Chocolat and Pentecost is the color red. Red is the liturgical color used in churches on the day of Pentecost. Vianne is almost always wearing red, from the first shot of her as she comes into town wearing her red hood. When Josephine finds the power to liberate herself from her abusive husband, the next day, she too is dressed in red.

To be sure, Chocolat, can be seen in a variety of ways. It is a sign of the value of this film that it allows us to find so much meaning each time we watch it.

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Subject: Choclat
Date: 04 Jan 2005
From: Vickie Skelton

I think that everyone is trying to make too much of Chocolat. The same thing was done with Star Wars. People try to attach Christian symbolism or while others tried to show how it was anti-Christian and had a new age message to it when George Lucas simply stated that all he was doing was making a western that takes place in outer space. Let's not try to over symbolize the movie and let's keep it to its very basic simplest message which was in the priet's final lesson on Easter Sunday at the end of the movie...

"...Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord's divine transformation. Not really, No. I don't want to talk about His divinity; I'd rather talk about his humanity. I mean, you know, how he lived his life on earth. His kindness, his tolerance. Listen, here is what I think. I think we can't go around measuring our goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude. I think we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include."

The message I feel is nothing more than that. The message is no different than basically what Christ came to preach. Self-righteousness leads to destruction and is not the way to live our lives. Live a life that follows the moral principles laid out in scripture but also do not neglect the weightier provisions of scripture . . . mercy, grace, faith & faithfulness, love, humility, service, forgiveness, understanding, compassion, justice, truth, kindness, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Why? Because there is no law against such provisions. You follow those provisions you end up covering all the bases. That is basically what is written in Matthew 22:35 - 40.

"35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And He said to him, " `YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38 "This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 "The second is like it, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' 40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

In other words, if you just followed those two commandments you will end up following all the others. You don't need any other commandments or rules.

The mayor became a self-righteousness, self-appointed watcher of the morals of the town and created all sorts of rules for everyone to follow so that His town would be tranquil. And Vianne and her daughter showed more of the weightier provisions of scripture and bringing a touch of life and hope to some of the people's lives. Everyone else, including the priest were caught in the middle.

But when the priest was allowed to speak his own mind and from his own understanding of scriptures, he got the message out as best as he could...

"Listen here is what I think, I think we can't go around measuring our goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude. I think we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include."

That in a nutshell is the message of the movie. How do we know this? By three things...

It is the message given near the end of the movie and the director, Lasse Hallström, makes sure we notice it by making it one of the main scenes in the movie.

The movie followed right down that path of The Measuring of Our Goodness by...

What We Don't Do: The mayor setting up rules forbidding certain things.
What We Deny Ourselves: Lent and the simple pleasures of life.
What We Resist: Trying to follow through with Lent by resisting chocolate and other ideas concerning living life.

Who We Exclude: The Excluding of Vianne and her daughter into the community and later the "River Rats".
What We Embrace: Life and allowing people to live theirs the way they desire.

What We Create: Vianne's chocolate creations and the creation of a town that is living versus the Mayor's creation of a town that was lifeless.

Who We Include: The including of Vianne and the River Rat people in the end by some of the town's people. But also Vianne including the Mayor near the end of the movie into her life. The including of other people's way of living life as long as it didn't harm others.

Finally, the last thing that tells us this is the message of the movie is Lasse Hallström's basic philosophy of telling a story..."Find the most simple way to tell the story with the most honest expression!" That is what he did. He told the story, gave the message, with the most honest expression of it through the movie Chocolat.

To make any more of it than that, whether it be about Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, and so-forth is to go beyond the simple message of the movie as given by the priest and honestly expressed throughout the movie. Just as in the bible, the simpliest message is usually the correct message. When we try to make more of it than what is really there; that is when we usually miss the message, the truth, that is being given to us.

Anyway, I saw the movie for the first time yesterday now (Monday, 1/3/05) and I enjoyed it. I wouldn't say I loved it, but I enjoyed it and probably will add it to my library of feel good movies to watch on a rainy day. Of course, next time with a bag of dark chocolate covered almonds and maybe a cup of hot chocolate.

I hope 2005 is a wonderful year for you all.


Subject: re: Chocolat
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001
From: To: david_E-mail

Could be viewed as pure propaganda. Technically, this was not such a great film---good, but not great. Why all the Academy Award nominations? The Academy Awards are close to being a farce, they are so "political" (sort of like the Miss America Pageant). If your eyes are open, it's amazing what you see. It's also amazing how easily people are hypnotized.

Response: Hypnotized to what? What are you talking about?

Subject: Chocolat
Date: Sun, 2 Sep 2001
From: Big daddy rix

I am a college group leader at a church in Phoenix. My wife and I went to see Chocolat and liked it so much we took our whole college group to see it with us. We had a great discussion about the movie and what the symbolism might mean.

Later, my wife and I came across this website and went over these reviews of the movie. We were especially intrigued by your response - So much so that we read it to our college group. Every one of us were really interested in your perspective on not only the movie, but on Christianity as well. We consider ourselves rational, free-thinking, and intelligent people, and we were wondering if we could invite you into a rational, free-thinking, intelligent, and thought provoking dialog with us via e-mail. You may feel free to discuss any aspect of Christianity, Religion or philosophy that you wish to discuss, in a safe yet thought provoking way. If you would be at all interested in such a dialog, please respond and we'll figure something out. This could be a lot of fun for all of us!

Response: Sure, I would love too. -David

Subject: Chocolat
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001
From: jm

Good movie, cute, whimsical, are just some of the words I can use to describe "Chocolat". I dont think the religous conotations where meant to be offensive nor sublime. I agree with a little bit of almost everyones comments on this board though . (as odd as that may sound)

I found no flaw in the Priest or the Church, but in the Comte's human ego to control. Mostly driven out of his self pity from his wife abandoning him.

Religously speaking at its most basic level, the movie was about Doctrine vs Grace, Legal vs Human. Almost a parallel between the perception of Jewish vs Christian doctrine even. Or even Tradition vs Non-traditional.

But I think the movie makers used the rigidity of religion as the backdrop for the carefree magical women that whisps in on the north wind. Using two distinct extremes certainly enhances a story ( its a yin-yang thing )

Regardless still a very nice story.

I was curious though about the Mayan myth referred to by Vianne (The travelers/wanderers that followed the northwind supplying remedies and cures along their travel? (especially the element of the chocolate mixed with Chile as magical) Can anyone tell me if this is an actual myth/legend or purely a ficticous element of this movie. if anyone knows please let me know.

Subject: Chocolat
Date: Sun, 19 Aug 2001
From: "Seirios"

Raw Words, hoping to invoke a sweet... "taste".

Chocolat is a simple as well as labirynthical kind of film. It is "warm", smart and a little daring. Unfortunatelly no-one noticed the Vianne -Roux pair, as a unity. Everybody coments on how warm and lovely was Vianne, Roux being a mist of freedom around the main character. But is it really so? Or is the main character a two-person affair? I explain: Vianne looks to me as a ... creature of good heart, of denial towards social rigitness and so on... Now Roux is a free bird, hoping from branch to branch, town to town, just as Vianne, yet is able to live in-between ! He doesn't really need towns and villages, he may need food and go there, and maybe not. He doesn't need the towners - villagers, nor is he on any mission. He doesn't have the running-from syndrome that Vianne has, he doesn't go to places and leaves, he just "goes places". He needs a warm heart as a mate, just as she needs a strong mind as a guide. And it works vise-versa in other ways as well! The point is that they are both the main characters. Now what do they do? Do they oppose social rigitness and stifness of mind and heart? Yes. Do they confront an opressing church and reveal Christ's true meaning? ... No. If it were so, (although Vianne seeks a "path-home") Roux would be a good Christian. And though he yells "Jesus" in the fire scene he is farr from being a Christian. Why? Because he lives free, his mind is free, not balancing as Vianne, he has his own way, and doesn't need a "chosen-one" to "show him the way". He is reasonable, the mind, and Vianne "warm", the heart. This may be offensive to Christians, but (here comes the raw part) thing are this way. Although there isn't a single historical fact on which to base the existense of Christ we have a world-spread religgion. How odd... What did he say that others hadn't say, or done before him, written in history books, or preserved in folklore myths? Pretty much nothing. So how come Christianity is so widelly-spread, as well as its' root Hebrewism, and its' offspring, Islam? Cause, as with all religions, it serves the "system". Like the twin-power in the film, the Count and the Church, State and... Relligion.

The third part is cleverly offerred, in the remarks of monetary nature "people talk"... Pay and you are good, give away and you are foolish, unless if it is for the "good cause" of the Church... Get my drift? Anyway, the main characters don't need books (however wonderfull) in order to "feel" and understand what's going on, especially Roux (the subtle power). They know that it is not just the little chocolat - against fasting affair. It is the issue of Man's (and Woman's) right to free choice! The choice of eating and drinking whatever they please, the choice of going wherever they wish-to, the right to make love (not sex) with people they love when they so please, the freedom to scream, laugh and dance, and most of all feel and think as nature, or God if you please, has made them to be like.

Christianity is the enemy in the film, not just the Church, and don't pretend it is not so... The "Holy Bible", the "Holy Books" in general, be them Old or New Testament and so on, don't stand a minute's time when analyzed by a free and rational mind, as well as they don't "feel right" to a natural heart and body. Saying "no" to the needs of the body is a bad sign... saying "no" to love (not sex) is also bad, saying "no" to free thought, by imposing dogmatic rules, based on "God told me so" is... a joke. The good will of the followers of relligions is one degree of "neck-bending" towards power-lust priests and lords (who make sure that the "sheep" are afraid and hungry). The weak will of followers is another. They surrender their freedom, their minds, their lives. I don't think that the... "free" characters in the film had a tendency to bow to "Lords" other than themselves, accepting the price for being responsible for their lives. They feel fear, as a natural thing, caused by natural causes, they fight back, as Vianne and Roux and so on. They don't live a life of fear, a life in fear of some unkown god waitting for them to make mistakes ( as well as in fear of god's -or state lord's- good minnions who try to prove worthy and are his axe upon unbelievers, un-fitting...). And that is the God of the Old Testament, what about the New one?

Funny isn't it; Christ, the "son"(???!!!) of God, a God himslef (how, in Paradise, why?) is the kind human-god who brings the message of love to the world and when he "returns" to "Heaven" he's again the old angry God we all fear (not moi)?... How rational... Just as rational as the story that Christ just the day before he was capturred he was asking God (are they one,two, three?) to save him, even on the very cross... On the other hand we have Socrates, knowing he is to die, being given a way to flee, a chance to live, yet accepting the responsability of his action, and he's a mere mortal! (the tale of the Christ is propably a tale, the other is recorded history...) Hmmm... The free mind rebels in the face of dogmas, especially "wisdom" coming from "messengers of God"... Roux is a free man, and Vianne a free woman, with their weaknesses, but they don't think of them as sins! They don't need "in-betweens" to feel the majesty of the Cosmos, and act in accordance to it's laws. They are not opressed by need, money, guilt, desire, at least not to the degree, or even the way of the villagers. They are not pagans, nor need any label. They are just Vianne and Roux. They think and they love. And that is the meaning of this film for me, how sweet a message!...

P.S. Jane from Illinois, clever remark, 13... (who was Judas, or who was... whatever?)

P.S. 2 I hope I haven't offended the right of people to be servants to a master...

Subject: Tickled Ears
Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001
From: Nick Alexander The "Catholic Weird Al"

Due to miscommunication on a non-stop flight, I was only able to catch the final forty-five minutes of "Chocolat" the in-flight movie. I was familiar enough with the story from the reviews I had read, that I was able to jump in the middle. Granted, I missed was the set-up: the initial characterizations of Binochet's character, Dench's, Molina's, and Moss's characters. I missed an apparently offensive scene where a Eucharist is jump-cutted to a chocolate wafer. I'll give the benefit of the doubt.

For what I did catch: I respected the scene where the Mayor (Molina) confronts Peter Stomare's character... at least that wasn't a complete whitewash of a stereotype. And the scenes of the fire were certainly effectively used to cause sympathy to the heroine.

Maybe it's just me... but the climactic scene where the Mayor was praying--asks God what to do--feels inclined to take a letter opener and destroy all of the chocolate in the store... ESPECIALLY since this was the night before Easter, which was TECHNICALLY Holy Saturday Vigil, which in the Catholic religion, already WAS Easter, making the chocolate ALREADY appropriate for consumption (but who would want to eat it late at night?). And yet, the Mayor, in his misguided piety, destroys the chocolate, finally tastes it, and converts.

How could you not cringe during that scene? Not only was it insulting to Christians, but it even from an unbeliever's perspective, it was poorly acted, poorly scripted, poorly edited, and an embarassment for both Molina and Hallstrom. Did I miss something in the translation? Five minutes afterward, we are given the director's/screenwriter's true motif--directly stated--in the climactic homily by the parish priest. In the context of the movie, I suppose his words makes sense. But in the context of Easter, it doesn't. It appears that the priest (and thus, the screenwriter/director) have no inclination of the merits of fasting, the merits of self-denial, AND... in the triumph of Easter, the merits of full scale celebration.

Don't they GET it?? To deny little pleasures, like Chocolate, during Lent so that when Easter comes the Chocolate may be consumed?? To store up some of the storehouses so that when the year of Jubilee comes, that a full scale party can take place? To store up one's virginity so that when the marriage covenant is finally bestowed, one can enjoy its fruits with the abandonment in proper perspective?? To deny yourself ten percent of finances in tithing, so that God may be honored?

I believe this film is not an examination of "grace vs. works" which would make for a wonderful story (e.g. Les Miserables), but an insidious attack on those who deny self, take up their crosses, and follow Christ. So much for the "tolerance" it allegedly preaches!
Nick Alexander The "Catholic Weird Al"

Date: Sat, 05 May 2001
From: Jane from a corn farm in Illinois

I just discovered your web site and checked out the review of my all-time favorite movie, Chocolat! Having read the other posts, I won't rave on and on, but want to simply add one further thought.

In the scene where Vianne and Anouck are about to leave town (after the urn shatters), their attention is caught be the curious sounds coming from her kitchen. That moment when Vianne walks in to the warm, lighted kitchen (having just harshly forced Anouck to depart upstairs because they didn't belong) is one of the best scenes of True Community I have seen on film!! It was incredible to me how Juliette Binoche could "show" us the way she "realized" at that moment that she did belong -- that that motley assortment of townsfolks, who she had "ministered" to, were there to do FOR HER what she wasn't able to do for herself at that point. I loved watching that "sink in" to her in that scene. It filled my heart with joy and my eyes with tears. And when Jacquline comes up to her and asks Vianne the same question inside-out that Vianne had asked her on the visit to the Cafe -- it was perfect! It was a marvelous scene and depicts my idea of Christian Community at many levels.

Also: Did anyone notice? At Armande's birthday feast -- weren't there about 13 people present at the table? Interesting.

I grieved that Serge was "lost" in the film. He in fact was banished from his home. Beautiful film. Inspiring story!
Jane from a corn farm in Illinois


Chocolat ? 2000 Miramax