Ireland, 1209. An island on the edge of the world. A small group of monks begin a reluctant pilgrimage across an island torn between centuries of tribal warfare and the growing power of Norman invaders. Escorting their monastery's holiest relic to Rome, the monks' progress is seen through the eyes of a pious young novice and a mute lay-brother with a violent past. As the true material, political and religious significance of the bejeweled relic becomes dangerously apparent, their path to the east coast becomes increasingly fraught with danger. The monks belatedly realize that in this wild land of ancient superstitions, the faith that binds them together may ultimately lead to their destruction.Written by
Out of the creeping faerie mist of a dark age comes an intensely suspenseful tale about why we choose our allegiances. This is the heart of the story - our reasons make no sense.
The drama revolves around a lump of rock. That any other lump could replace it at any time and no-one would notice is openly stated in the dialogue. It's the stark question woven through the plot - is faith taken on faith alone really worth fighting for?
It's a tense film, beautifully written and exquisitely acted. Each viewer decides what the film's about - it doesn't explain itself, it falls silent. Everyone will see something different. Some might conclude we're all compelled towards war whether we like it or not. Some might decide we're all in league with the Devil whether we know it or not. Some might believe we're all still lost in the creeping faerie mist clutching for something to save us.
Some reviewers didn't rate it highly as an action thriller but it's not a superficial movie and maybe doesn't fit into that genre. There's far more being shown in the subtext and the themes than being told in the action. As for the excessive violence, I felt it merely conveyed the grim reality of melee combat. After all, hidden in the word 'Pilgrimage' is the word 'grim'.
It's a mark of a brilliant film when after seeing it once you must see it again. On the second viewing, it bit me deeper on the neck and made me more its thrall.
For me, the main highlight was Jon Bernthal's acting. It was haunting. He played a voiceless man who served the monks as the lowliest of their group and I fell in love with his tragic integrity. He reminded me of another tormented anti-hero of contemporary myth - Angel from 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer': the vampire cursed with a soul, plagued by a weight of remorse for a hellish past. Both crave absolution and will do anything to receive it.
I loved 'Pilgrimage'. It was a strangely beguiling hybrid of superstitious medievalism clashing with an ancient landscape alive with pre-existing belief. And the ending was satisfyingly unsatisfying - like all good fairy tales are.
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