Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Buñuel: The Milky Way, Part 1

Watching Luis Buñuel's The Milky Way / La Voie lactée (1969), one might be unsure, at times, whether to laugh or cry. The crux of the film -- showing the varieties of religious belief as represented by the official Catholic Church and various alternative, unsanctioned doctrines (aka heresies) in action -- is perfectly suited for Buñuel's (and co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière's) Surrealist style. I can't think of a better fit.

Premise: two 1960s guys are making a pilgrimage from Paris to Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, along the Way of Saint James (also called the Milky Way, and in Spanish, El Camino de Santiago; or in French, Les chemins de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle) mostly by walking. They seem to weave in and out of time and space, threading their way unexpectedly through various bizarre encounters, ranging from secret "heretical" meetings in the woods to Jesus and Mary to a demon (or is it the Devil?) and the Whore of Babylon. The viewer is left to decide what the hell is going on and what to do (or not do) about it. 

Perspective. It's clear, from Buñuel's perspective, that people believe some mighty strange things, and often go to great lengths to squash or suppress alternative beliefs.  

Action. For me, I feel inspired, watching The Milky Way, to go on some sort of mini-pilgrimage as soon as possible. It's an exciting prospect. While on the one hand, as a priest observes in the film, "there is no mystery deeper, and sweeter, than that of the Virgin Mary," on the other hand, the very act of going on any pilgrimage can be exhilarating and enlightening. There is absolutely no down side, unless you happen to be caught by lethal enemies and burned at the stake as a heretic.  

Today's Rune: Defense.


Charles Gramlich said...

A pilgrimage teaches you as much about yourself as anything, I suppose. Or more.

Sidney said...

I have not seen that. Sounds intriguing.

jodi said...

Erik, I need a pilgrimage! Maybe to Jacoby's with some friends for a cocktail or 5!

Mona said...

I consider visiting a town from my childhood memories as a pilgrimage :)