I love movies, but I hate Hollywood. On the one hand, movies are one of the last great deals in existence. Production companies spend millions and millions of dollars and countless hours of work to put a film together. Literally thousands of people work together to complete a project – everything from special effects to makeup to music. But you can still see a movie for only about 10 bucks. And you can own one for a little more (or less if you wait until it’s in the $5 bin). It’s amazing, really.
But on the other hand, the actors who are paid millions of dollars to be in movies aren’t content with their astronomical salaries – many also feel they have the right to pretend to be experts on politics, and pretend to be role models. Which is great (sarcasm) when they do things like skip the marriage part of a relationship and jump right to having babies. Or when they blow all their money on self-destructive behavior.
Have you ever noticed that much of the time Hollywood just keeps cranking out the same old formulas – remaking the remakes – and rather than creating something new, just tries to find new ways to package the old stuff? In fact, the recent remake of 21 Jump Street poked fun at itself by acknowledging this fact. And then there’s that weird phenomenon where two movies with basically the same plot come out at about the same time. Like Armageddon and Deep Impact. Or The Illusionist and The Prestige. Or Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached. Or Antz and A Bug’s Life. Or the two Snow White movies coming out now. Or… (here’s just one of several websites that explore this phenomenon: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DuelingMovies)
But every once in a while a film comes out that stands out so much, and is so good and so uplifting, that I have to think, if I were in charge of the world, I would decree that everyone in the world must see it. But don’t worry, there’s really very little chance that I will ever be in charge of the world, so you need not be concerned that I will be corrupted by the power. But I digress…
A few days ago, my wife and I saw the film, The Way, starring Martin Sheen, and directed by Emilio Estevez. Martin Sheen plays a man who has recently lost his adult son, and decides to complete what his son had started: a pilgrimage on the Cammino di Santiago Compostela (The Way of St. James). This is an ancient pilgrim trail through France and Spain, ending at the tomb of St. James the apostle. I don’t really want to say too much more about the film, except just make sure you see it.
Hollywood has it’s own dysfunctional version of the Truth. And if you get caught up in the real lives of the “stars,” it can be a pretty grim reality check, putting the lowest common denominator of humanity on display. But sometimes the stories they present to us are more truthful than their reality (and sometimes the best of these are not the films with the highest budgets). This is one of the reasons I love movies – I love to look for the truth in the stories. Sometimes we need to be intentional about looking for truth, even in our own lives. If we don’t look for it, we might not notice it.
In a way, a story about a pilgrimage is a story about the Life we as Christians live on this earth. Life is a journey, and we are passing through a land in which we are, in many ways, strangers. The Cammino is a microcosm of a person’s life – lived like we’re walking through time and across space, all along the way touching people’s lives in ways that make indelible marks on us and on them. We meet, and we move on, but we are never the same. And if we’re willing to see the Truth of it, God is there with us, meeting us on the road, every step of the Way.