The Milky Way (1969 film)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In the film, two men travel the ancient pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela and meet embodiments of various Catholic heresies along the way. The film plays with time in the sense that the two main characters often encounter individuals in the dress of various time periods throughout history, or historical events take place in the modern setting of the film, including scenes from the life of Jesus Christ. Often, these encounters involve conversations or arguments regarding a specific Catholic doctrine or heresy, and are intended to show the absurdity of making absolute statements about such topics as a matter of fact. Two heresies prominent in the film are Priscillianism and Jansenism.
Two men, Peter and John, are making a modern pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela along the traditional Way of St. James. As they walk along a roadside in France, they encounter a man in a black cape who tells them to sleep with a prostitute and have children with her. Then the pilgrims reach an inn, wherein an officer and a priest are discussing the nature of the eucharist and whether the body of Christ enters it by transubstantiation or consubstantiation. The discussion ends absurdly as the priest is taken away by doctors from a nearby mental hospital. Later on, the pilgrims find shelter for the night on a farm while a secret Priscillian sect is meeting nearby. The secret service involves ritual repetition, a short statement of faith, followed by sexual encounters between the male and female congregation. Next, the pilgrims seek food from an upscale restaurant, wherein the restaurant owner is explaining to his staff controversy of the divinity of Jesus Christ as debated during the First Council of Nicaea. Later on, the pilgrims observe an automobile accident. As they investigate the accident, they encounter a strange man who may be Death (personification) or one of his helpers, and this strange man gives one of the pilgrims the dead man's shoes. Further on, the pilgrims pass by a boarding school and watch the children perform for their parents and teachers. As a class of young girls recites heresies and proclaim them "anathema", one of the pilgrims imagines the execution of a pope by a band of revolutionaries. Then the pilgrims come across a chapel, wherein a group of Jansenist nuns is nailing one nun to a wooden cross. Outside, a Jesuit and a Jansenist have a sword duel while arguing over doctrines of predestination and irresistible grace for sinners. Finally, the two pilgrims reach Spain, where they agree to take care of the mule for two other men. These new men leave the pilgrims travel to a nearby chapel where they watch the official desecration of a priest's grave because of the discovery of heretical posthumous writings regarding the nature of the trinity. The two men proclaim loudly that the Godhead is not trinitarian and escape. In the forest, they switch clothes with some hunters swimming in a lake, and they discard a rosary discovered in one of their pockets. Later that night, the vision of the Virgin Mary appears to them and returns the rosary. The two men and the original pilgrims meet again at an inn, where they tell a local priest about their recent miraculous vision. The priest recounts another miracle, in which the Virgin Mary takes the form and duties of an errant nun for several years until the nun returns to the convent as if she had never left. Later that night, the priest further explains how her immaculate conception and role as the mother of Christ requires that her virginity must have remained intact during the physical birth of Jesus, like "sunshine penetrating a window". Finally, the pilgrims reach Santiago de Compostela, where they meet a prostitute who wants to become pregnant and gives the same names for the children as those predicted by the man in the cape at the beginning of the film. In the final scene in the film, two modern blind men encounter Jesus and his disciples. Their blindness is healed but are then ignored as they ask for help to understand what they are seeing for the first time.