The film “Camino Skies” will open in the cinemas on Friday: Six people from New Zealand and Australia tackle the route together – a handful of individuals with one and the same goal. According to tradition, the apostle James the Elder is buried in Santiago de Compostela. In the Middle Ages, the place developed into the third most important Christian pilgrimage destination (after Jerusalem and Rome).
In the last few years and decades this tradition has experienced a renaissance. Whereby it is not necessarily always practicing believers who set off. In many cases, it is the doubting and the seeker who pack up the essentials (carrying more would be physically overwhelming) and tackle their very own Camino de Santiago.
Six people on the way
So much for the facts. Due to its popularity, its scenic beauty and its cultural and historical wealth, films have been made around the theme of the Way of St. James again and again in the recent past. The newest is “Camino Skies”. The audience is drawn into the action documented by the filmmakers Fergus Grady and Noel Smyth.
Happy laughter in a carefree community and almost unbearable pain from walking, rain and cold – but also encounters full of human warmth, old churches and lovely landscapes as well as dreary stretches next to busy car routes. The Camino de Santiago is diverse. Even experienced pilgrims cannot foresee what will happen the next day. It is and remains an adventure that you get involved in.
Step by step despite the pain
Life is like the Camino – this is how one member of the group put it that accompanied the documentary “Camino Skies” over hundreds of kilometers with a lot of empathy. There is the old lady who, despite painful joint problems and a badly crooked spine, finds the will every morning to get up and move on. In the afternoon she sometimes secretly weeps because it hurts so much, she admits – and then you see her walking on again, step by step, tirelessly encouraging herself: You can do it. It sounds like a mantra.
There is the woman in her mid-fifties who lost her husband to cancer and her son to an accident. On the way to Santiago, she wants to come to terms with her grief. And maybe leave some of it behind.
Feelings of happiness and despondency
The film carefully shows what being on the road does to people: Community is created, you help each other. Feelings of happiness after a successfully completed day’s stage are replaced by moments of despair when you think you can no longer go on. Body and mind are challenged to the extreme.
In the long conversations while walking, important passages of one’s own life are discussed with hitherto strangers, questions are asked, new insights gained – and the course is set in the direction of letting go. Because this is what connects the protagonists of this film: They have all experienced painful things, lost loved ones. They all want to leave burdensome behind on the Camino and find new perspectives.
Traveling that bears fruit
How these can be seen in small things is carefully indicated: apparently inconspicuous discoveries in nature, the pride in being able to simply put the ring that has been worn for so long after the divorce on the way and go further without it – or the wonderful song an unknown singer and the warm hug afterwards. Snapshots like these show that something is changing, that being on the road on the Camino is bearing fruit.
This type of presentation makes “Camino Skies” different from the considerable number of the Way of St. James films that have come to cinemas in recent years. Spectacular productions are deliberately avoided here, there are no “miracles”, no unbelievable dramaturgical twists and turns. However, what is staged breathtakingly over and over again is the experience of nature.
Without pathos and kitsch
Without pathos or kitsch, the designers succeed in skillfully bringing the sea, the sun, countless shades of green and the beauty of individual plants into the picture. This creates its own, very unobtrusive, spiritual imagery. It is complemented by recordings in old churches, which exude an atmosphere of calm and timelessness.
When the group finally arrives in Santiago, all members have gone through a very individual process – and given the cinema audience very personal insights into their life stories. The path has changed them, and everyone is proud to have actually arrived after the unspeakable effort – perhaps more to themselves than to the long-awaited end of their journey. Because one message can be taken from the documentation: The journey is the goal.