Sunday 9 June 2013

Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago

Walking the Camino (in Spanish, Buen Camino) follows six pilgrims on their way to Santiago. Each one of them carries more than just their backpack. They carry their sorrows, their doubts, their hopes and dreams for the future. Brazillian, Sam, for example says: “They said I would find the answer and then I realised: I didn’t know the question”. Tatiana pushes a baby stroller with her son, Cyrian. She struggles with not only the rocky terrain, but also her ambivalence towards her brother. They have always fought, she says at the beginning of the film: “Now, no fighting.” All that is to change, however, as she gradually realises that while she is on the Camino to talk to God, Alexis is out for a good time, and she finds that her inner struggles become focussed on trying to come to terms with their differences. Wayne, the Canadian, is still suffering from the sadness of losing his wife some time before. Annie wrestles with tendinitis and walks through her pain determined not to stop. Others pass her with their poles: tuk, tuk, tuk. “A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul,” she reflects. Misa and William find themselves drawn to each other in ways that neither of them ever anticipated, the age difference fading into meaninglessness when they find they are only ever separated when one or the other goes to the bathroom.

In short, your pilgrimage. Perhaps everybody’s pilgrimage.

And therein is the true strength of this film.

Not only are the characters superbly drawn, but the film is cinematographically beautiful. Long shots, short shots, wide shots. Not that this writer knows anything about the technical terms, but when the raindrops on the blades of grass glisten, and when the clouds are scudding across the Meseta, then you begin to understand the magic of the Camino. A snail moves along the pathway; a jet speeds above the cathedral: the metaphors are not lost. This is the Camino de Santiago. Time takes on a different meaning.

I predict that everyone who sees this film will come away feeling as I did: humbled and connected to the lives of these people. Perhaps you, like me will “adopt” a pilgrim and feel something of their joy as they finally make it to the Plaza de Obradoiro. And maybe, like me, you will cry.

Truly a wonderful film.