Review of the Netflix series Thieves of the Wood

By John Ruberry

Are you missing some Robin Hood in your life? If you are a Netflix subscriber and you can stomach graphic violence, including torture, as well as gratuitous nudity, then you may want to take a look at the ten-episode Belgian series Thieves of the Wood, which began streaming earlier this month.

And you must be patient. Thieves of the Wood moves slowly, and if you don’t know about Jan de Lichte or Flanders of the 18th century, as I didn’t until a few days ago, you might get lost.

After watching the first episode I was indeed lost. So I got on my iPad where I learned that Jan de Lichte was a real person, a highway man, who of course robbed from the rich. After all, stealing from the poor is never very profitable. At the beginning of that first episode, de Lichte (Matteo Simoni) is being dragged on a sandy trail by mounted Austrian troops, he’s accused of murder and desertion. Now is the time to bring some historical perspective. Most of contemporary Flanders, a Dutch speaking region, lies in Belgium. But in the 1740s this region was then part of Austria although it was occupied by France. Historians call this conflict the War of Austrian Succession.

De Lichte escapes. He returns to his hometown of Aalst, which is run by corrupt Flemish aristocrats, led by Mayor Coffijn (Dirk Roofthooft). Just as de Lichte arrives in Aalst, so does the new bailiff, that is the chief of police, Jean-Phillipe Baru (Tom Van Dyck). Both learn that punishment is harsh in Aalst. Baru is horrified when he learns that a man and a woman are about to be flogged for the crime of stealing two rabbits from Coffijn’s estate, then branded–while their children watch. Now paperless, they are exiled from the city to live in a nearby forest.

Those woods are not the Nottingham Forest of Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. The refuge is overrun by abject poverty, disease, prostitution, and opium smoking. De Lichte, aided by his half-brother Tincke (Stef Aerts), organize the downtrodden to fight back against the oppression, although it’s not until the fourth episode–I did say that Thieves of the Wood requires patience–that their plans bear fruit.

The loot is shared. Everyone wins in the forest. While Coffijn seethes

The scriptwriters are clearly hostile to the Catholic church. There is no Friar Tuck in this forest, in the town presides an imperious priest, Picke. He reminded me of the cruel Lutheran bishop in Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander. 

As the series played out to me I fully expected a Donald Trump reference or two, especially since America comes up in the dialogue a couple of times. Then it hit me. Two of the town council members, including Mayor Coffijn, wear orange, or I should of course say red, periwigs. Perhaps that’s only a coincidence. Perhaps not. 

Some of the good: The costumes of Thieves of the Wood, including those wigs, are first-rate and the cinematography is superb. 

And now some of the bad: There are no subtitles, the Dutch dialogue instead is dubbed by British actors. The American entertainment industry suffers from the false premise that we won’t watch subtitled offerings. But last night I saw the Korean film Parasite, which is subtitled. Not only is Parasite an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture (and Best International Feature Film), but it is also performing very well in the domestic box office. Deservedly so, I’d like to add. 

Thieves of the Wood is rated TV-MA for reasons I listed above. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Fr Longnecker Nails Catholicism Perfectly

As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

John 6:66-69

This weekend after a prolonged nap I woke from my sleep to see this tweet from Fr. Dwight Longnecker, one of the few married priests in the Catholic Church that speaks to one of the most salient things concerning the Catholic Church

This nails one of the most critical things about the Catholic Church that there is.

Think about it for a second. If you think about the kind of church you want to join, the Catholic Church would not likely be high on your list.

You aren’t allowed to divorce your wife or husband if the inclination comes

You an’t allowed to have premarital sex, or even contraception

If you’re gay, forget marriage, if you want to be a priest for nun, forget marriage and sex.

In fact forget about porn, masturbation and a bunch of other things that you might like to get away with

and even worse if you do any of these things you have to go before a priest, confess that you’ve done these thing, “firmly resolve to not commit these sins in the future” (and mean it when you say it) and when (hopefully if but usually when) you falter on some of those sins as is the way of life, have the embarrassment of going back and confessing them AGAIN.

And if you don’t do these things you either have to refrain from communion or go up for a blessing and left everyone SEE that you’re in an unfit state to receive communion.

And consider how many attractive alternatives there are avaialble.

You have Christian churches who preach predestination meaning that it’s all God’s will so no matter what you do now it doesn’t matter (so you might as well do what you want).

You have Christian churches who proclaim “one saved always saved” which means that you can sin all you want without fear of hell.

You have Christian churches that redefine sin to the point where not only are the sins you are most tempted from no longer considered sin but are even considered virtuous.

And beyond that you not only have a culture that hates the church, but celebrates you when you leave it but you have scandals from sexual to financial that makes being a public Catholic a very hard thing.

And if you are devout despite this you have a Pope that has at best been a Lemon or at worst been a heretic to the point where some of the alternatives like the Society of St. Pius seem not only reasonable, but honorable. You even have alternatives that the Church recognizes as valid like the Orthodox whose sacraments are recognized but do not return said recognition

So why does one stay Catholic, or as in Fr. Longnecker case convert to the Catholic faith? Simply for the reason Fr. Longnecker said

“…because it’s the true church.”

My degree is in Computer Science, I’ve trained as an engineer, I’m a maths guy. Do you realize how easy it would be to go to a denomination that said my current sins that I battle were not sins and that the various temptations to other sins I have were no big deal if I thought that the Church was not true? Do you think I would put myself though those things if there was the slightest doubt in my mind that the church wasn’t true?

And that not even dealing with the various ethical dilemmas that have come up regularly from loving one’s enemies rather than taking easy revenge on them or taking ethical shortcuts that would have made me wealthy and my life comfortable

Those alternatives are all dangled before us, from the abolition of our since (as opposed to forgiveness) on one end to the affirmation of our virtue on the other with worldly celebration in between. Almost as if it was being said to us.

All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me

Matthew 4:9

That’s the real irony. We are in fact being given the same tempting offer that Christ was and by the same being too. Might I suggest the same answer:

At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'”

Matthew 4:10

Now I’m no Jesus. I’m going to fail a lot and so are all the rest of us but the Eucharist remains the Eucharist, the Sacraments are still the sacraments and the Church for all the scandals it has had over two thousands years and for all the lemons we’ve seen from it, past present and future, remains the One Holy Catholic Church in faith in reason and in truth.

That’s is why I have stayed and will stay. With the Church’s help I might obtain heaven despite my sins and maybe if I’m very lucky and very blessed be of some use to Christ in helping a few others, by the grace of God, along that same narrow path.