Tag Archives: Spain

Review: The Way

“You don’t chose a life, Dad. You live one.” ~ Daniel Avery (Emilio Estevez) in The Way

The quotation above is probably the most succinct summary possible of the film, The Way, the new movie written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen. In brief, the story centers on Tom, brilliantly portrayed by Sheen, a 60-something ophthalmologist who loses his only son, Daniel, in a tragic accident.

In all truth, Daniel was lost to him long before the accident. But as Tom determinedly sets out to finish what Daniel had just started, making the pilgrimage of walking the Camino de Santiago as others have done for thousands of years, he has little understanding of the road ahead. What unfolds in the next hour and a half is the story of that journey. Tom and the merry band of stragglers who end up traveling with him tackle this road with growing honesty, to each other and to themselves. Through laughter and tears, forging friendships and even a sense of family, Tom and the rest discover what Daniel knew all along – everyone is on a journey, a quest of discovery, but not everyone finds their way.

Press photo, "The Way," from the official website

Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez at the Dayton Art Institute for a screening of their new movie, "The Way"

My husband and I received free tickets to attend the preview of this movie at the Dayton Art Institute and the question and answer session with Sheen and Estevez which followed. Not surprisingly, especially as Sheen is originally from Dayton and still has family here, the room was packed full. Students from the Wright State Film program, local clergy, fellow pellegrinos who had completed the walk, Dayton’s mayor, and members of the general public proved to be an interesting audience mix.

Yet despite the variety, the reactions across the room were identical – laughter at the unexpectedly humorous moments, some tears at the times when reality smacks the characters with its honesty, never letting them really escape from the journey they are making. And by the end? You realize what they do — even if you are not walking the Way of St. James, each person is on their own quest, trying to discover the life they want to live. Or as Tom discovers, “the difference between the life we live and the life we choose.”

Although it has obvious religious overtones, I would categorize this film as more spiritual than religious. As Estevez noted in the question and answer session, the literary structure of the film revisits The Wizard of Oz, imagery which rings apparent once stated. Sheen’s Tom is an out-of-place Dorothy in a Spanish Oz, and his comrades on the yellow-brick camino become as loveable as the familiar Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow, and with startlingly similar quests.

If you have the chance, I recommend this movie, if for no other reason than the scenery and landscapes. Filmed along the Camino de Santiago, the Spanish lands and people had me revisiting the months I lived there. Also, this project was the first ever to be allowed to film within the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, which is stunning. But the message is excellent as well.

Take a look at the trailer on the official movie site. If you like what you see, the movie will be out in theaters in October.

Either way, let me know what you think.

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Peacock in the Park

Peacock in the park

Peacock in Campo Grande

People are crying up the rich and variegated plumage of the peacock, and he is himself blushing at the sight of his ugly feet. ~ Sa’Di

This peacock and I became pretty good friends one spring. Or maybe he just tolerated me invading his space on a regular basis. But I’d like to think we were, on some level, friends. After the first week, he would always be hanging around my favorite bench when I showed up. We ate lunch together nearly every day for four months. Well, I ate lunch. I think he mostly watched to see if I was going to drop anything. Feeding the peacocks wasn’t encouraged in the Campo Grande.

I met Pea when I was living in Valladolid, Spain, doing historical research in the Archivo General de Simancas, about 10 kilometers outside of town.  I spent an amazing four months there, spending hours every day immersed in the documents of ambassadors and diplomats and of kings and queens of the late sixteenth century.  Valladolid was a bustling, modern city, yet one replete with history around every corner.  The Plaza Mayor dates from the very early 1500s.  The town was the birthplace of Spain’s future king, Philip II.  Ferdinand and Isabella were married there in 1469, and Christopher Columbus died there in 1506.  The Casa de Cervantes was home to Cervantes and his family between 1603 and 1606, as he labored to finish his masterpiece, Don Quixote.  And Semana Santa, or Holy Week in Valladolid is one of the most spectacular celebrations in all of Spain.  I was fortunate enough to experience Holy Week activities there and in Madrid during my stay.

Palm Sunday in Valladolid Spain

Semana Santa parade

Simancas is amazing all by itself.  The town is small, with the unmistakable signs of having been there seemingly forever.  Around one corner, visitors can find a glorious bridge, with more than fifteen arches, which sits amid older, less-fortunate remains of old walls. Ruins look as though they could easily be from falling under attacks during the battles between Moors and Christians in the tenth-century. Weather-worn stone buildings dot the small streets, and there was a charming little bar that served a marvelous brandy and frittata, followed by a very strong coffee, in the mid-mornings.

Archivo General de Simancas

Archivo General de Simancas

But the village is dominated by the Simancas Castle, which houses the archives. The building itself is historical, as it was the first modern building –and note by modern I’m talking the late 1400s– designed to house the important state documents of the kingdom. Philip II, understanding that history was best remembered in written form, made Simancas the active archives of his global empire. At best estimate, the Archivo General houses more than 33 million documents, containing both private and state papers significant to the history of Spain.

That’s why I was there, to research in those marvelously old papers. Once in the morning and once again after the noontime break visiting Pea, I’d walk up the stairs that people had walked on for more than 500 years, duck through the old wooden door, and find a place at a table in the old Great Hall to immerse myself into stories centuries old. One of the first days I was there I opened up a folio of letters and discovered one penned by Queen Elizabeth I of England, complete with fanciful signature and her symbolic crest embedded in red wax over the ribbon which had once sealed the letter for travel.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that moment was one of the reasons I later became an archivist. At the time, I was simply a history geek, talking to a peacock in the park about what I learned and saw that day. I don’t think Pea cared much, but he listened well.  Even to the crazy American woman who spoke English to a peacock in the park on her lunch hour.

[Note: This post is #16 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button at the lower left of the page for more information.]

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