* For this week, I am going to share my “takeaway” from Martin Campbell’s 1998 American swashbuckler film, The Mask of Zorro, which we covered for the 14th episode of our podcast. You can check it out if you would like to hear more about the movie itself and any plot points that you’re curious about or if you would like to hear our conversation that develops a variety of themes throughout. I hope you enjoy thinking critically about the content! Feel free to comment, share any thoughts, or leave information on whatever movies you would like to hear about in the future!
THE MASK OF ZORRO –
Plot summary: “After being imprisoned for 20 years, Zorro — Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins) — receives word that his old enemy, Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson), has returned. Don Diego escapes and returns to his old headquarters, where he trains aimless drunk Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas) to be his successor. Meanwhile, Montero — who has secretly raised Diego’s daughter, Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as his own — hatches a plot to rob California of its gold.”
Who doesn’t love this film!? It is such a fantastic retelling of an enduring classic that inspired the character of Batman, for crying out loud. Culturally-speaking, Zorro is an important figure. He stole people’s imaginations and told a story that met people in some of the most basic human experiences – a person’s calling to bring about good in their community, the evil that fights back, jealousy, betrayal, loss, the desire for revenge, the importance of justice, the battle between those two because revenge and justice don’t often coincide.
What I found more interesting than those themes and the ways in which this film addresses them is the way in which The Mask of Zorro points to an even greater story that does the same.
Similarly to how I viewed The Princess Bride for this podcast, I saw the Mask of Zorro as a retelling of the Gospel message from another cultural perspective. Because of my particular bent to appreciate other cultures and their unique strengths that are brought into the global Church, I love stories like this which show the Gospel is not a European construct. It is not the foundation of a white man’s religion. It is the story of a God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever should believe in Him would never die, but have eternal life (John 3:16). I believe the Mask of Zorro demonstrates how Christ can be known and understood no matter where on earth or in time people are coming from because the feelings of weakness and the need for some sense of salvation are universal, whether we’re Christians or not. The awareness is baked into humanity and we can’t help but tell similar stories in our films.
If one were to watch this film with that mindset, you might see how Christians fit squarely in the role of Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones). That will get fleshed out as we look at the other characters in relation to her.
Don Rafael (Stuart Wilson), her supposed father who stole her as a baby is like Satan, the Father of lies. He didn’t want Elena to know that she was related to her true father.
Her true father, Don Diego (Anthony Hopkins), represents God, the Father, who is seeking renewed relationship with Elena throughout the movie, much like God does with us throughout our lives.
Zorro, or Alejandro (Antonio Banderas), is Elena’s savior, who is sent by her father, and who Elena can’t help but be interested in, even when she believes he opposes her family interests.
In the end, though, when the truth comes out, it drastically shifts Elena’s understanding of the world and who she really is. She recognizes that the place she thought was home was actually the home of the enemy. The truth also made all that she thought was false, namely being the child of Don Diego, her real father, into a new reality for her.
In the end of the movie, the captives are set free in the mine because Zorro came around again. They would have had no hope had Zorro decided not to sacrifice on their behalf, knowing the threat that saving them would make to his own life.
All of this is simply an extension of the basic Gospel message. For those more familiar with the film, we can also see symbols like how Spain, Mexico, and the Dons could stand in as the messed-up Old Testament kings, or the Pharisees and Sadducees, or even the Romans who never ruled the people like God/Zorro could, when he led them well.
If we were to take it even a step further, we might point out that this story of a need for a savior is absolutely saturated in Latin culture. Isn’t it beautiful that the Gospel does not have to be received in a Caucasian context? That Jesus, as a Middle-eastern man, is accessible to all of humanity, no matter where we come from or what time we exist. We’re all perfectly capable of understanding what it means for Christ to come and save us from the Father of lies. We all have experiences that make this understandable to us. And it’s because of this that Jesus stands above any one single cultural representation. He’s the Son of God, here to save all of mankind.
This is a very subjective experience of mine while watching this film. To my knowledge, the production team had no plans whatsoever for these elements to point to the Gospel. And yet they do. And praise God, because the Gospel has its finger-prints in every aspect of humanity. This is just one more story that points to His grace.
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Love you all,