It follows one Jesuit priest (a 'black robe') and his young French companion as they travel with Algonquin Indians through the hostile and sparse winter country in Canada in the 17th Century.
The priest is looking for a distant mission and in return for his safe arrival the Indians are promised tooling including pots and hammers that will make their lives a little easier. The chief accepts the offer despite being very wary that his culture is very different from the priest's.
Along the way the priest encounter other tribes, a hostile environment and a culture shock as he realises that his young companion, who was at first interested in entering priesthood now seems more concerned with the tribe chief's daughter.
Despite being centred around religion, Black Robe neither pushes the viewer into religion in a preaching manner, and nor does it reinforce the Indian's believe that those who teach religion are actually doing the devil's work. What it does do well is highlight the differences in beliefs that the Indians and the settlers had. Towards the end of the film it also shows that anyone will believe anything so long as it gives them hope.
The film's action comes mainly from a fight with a neighbouring tribe. This tribe provides the film with most of its shocking scenes, and director Bruce Beresford does hold back as he films a woman being shot with an arrow and a young child having her neck broken.
Love is a major theme throughout the film, and especially the blossoming relationship between Black Robe's companion and the chief's daughter. However, unlike many films with a love theme Black Robe does not draw them out and make them soppy, but it keeps the rugged atmosphere alive and contributes a valid part to an excellent film.
There are negatives, and in this film it is the difficulty in which is takes to understand the culture to begin with. Once this is overcome however, you will be rewarded with a thoroughly enticing film.