Menno’s Reins: A Review

Remember Menno’s Reins? According to Miriam Toews it was one of the approved Mennonite “films” back in the day.

“Or maybe he had a dream of someday showing the movie Hazel’s People non-stop. Or Menno’s Reins. Those were the films (we were discouraged from calling them movies) that we were shown on a regular basis.” – Miriam Toews, A Complicated Kindness

Well, believe it or not, Menno’s Reins is available on DVD!

It’s an interesting film, more of an artefact I would say. Given that it was made independently in 1976, the production values are not high, but it does offer interesting live reenectments of the Mennonite story from Menno’s time to the present day (of the 1970s), with a particular focus on the Russian Mennonites who came to Manitoba.

The movie (oh, sorry, the “film”) stars John Friesen as Menno Simons and a host of other characters. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true: John Friesen later went on to play a role in David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch!

I will say that I much preferred And When They Shall Ask, which I think still holds up quite well today, but, despite its quirks, Menno’s Reins is worth watching if for nothing more than to see what Miriam Toews was talking about!

As I said, the DVD is available at the MHV gift shop and it’s also on YouTube, although the picture quality is better on the DVD.

I know you should never read the comments below a YouTube video as they’re generally dreadful, but I stumbled upon a couple comments below this video that I found interesting.

“Sad history of compromise and worldliness.”


“Lukewarm producers made this.”

Very interesting! I suppose they’re referring to the fact that the film documents how Mennonites have changed and modernized overtime. It’s fascinating that “rebel Mennos” like Miriam Toews begrudgingly watched this in late 70s, while some people today (presumably fundamentalists) are basically saying the film itself is made by “lukewarm” Rebel Mennos and documents Rebel Menno “worldliness.” My how a person’s perspective can affect how they view a film!

Well, is it a terrible bore or a scary threat to the very existence of Mennonites? See for yourself!