This was a movie in which the version of Catholicism had cut off the body from the soul. The body was returning via this sort of gypsy woman who was bringing scents and sounds and tastes back to this community.

But I'm not so sure it says much about Paganism versus Catholicism. There are versions of Catholicism that are filled with incense and tastes and sounds and sensual things, and versions of Paganism that are fairly Protestant in nature.

One the other hand, I think the reason paganism and earth-based religions are so popular, it's because the juice and mystery have been taken out of a lot of our religious practice. People want to live in the modern world, not have to conform to a ridiculous doctrine, but still have the juice and mystery.

Vianne is a single mom who triumphs over powerful men. Would you call "Chocolat" a very female-positive film?
It is pro-female, but I don't see it as anti-male. It certainly fits well with the view that women have a certain power of understanding, but I wouldn't think of it as being politically feminist particularly.

Vianne's father is a lapsed Catholic, and her mother is a Mayan healer. Are Mesoamerican religions considered earth-based?
Oh yeah. I think underneath all this there's an enormous attempt to say that this is an earth-based religion that's looking at this form of Christianity and making a counterpoint. But I'm not sure how clear that comes off. There are all these little tiny aspects of it--the red capes, for examples. Is that kind of a "witchy" cape? I think it's just that red is blood, life, corporeal--it's life.

There's so much in "Chocolat" about food and eating, yet we never see the Catholics accepting the Eucharist, only denying themselves.
I'd be interested to know if that was a scene that got cut. In the most rabidly anti-clerical novel ever written, "The Gadfly," the hero of the novel goes into Mass at the end and watches the Eucharist and realizes that it's all about blood and death and blood and death.

Beliefnet at the Oscars

The Rev. Jerry Falwell on 'Gladiator'

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner on 'Crouching Tiger'

The Very Rev. Alan Jones on 'Erin Brockovich'

Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman on 'Traffic'

The 73rd Academy Award nomineesDiscuss: Which movie has deepened your spirituality?

Also: 'Chocolat' Leaves a Bitter Aftertaste

Oscar's Unspiritual Year

There really wasn't any scene in this movie about religion at all. You saw them going into church, and you saw the priest speaking at the pulpit.