Ever since The way directed by Emilio Esteves, the number of Americans pilgrims travelling to Spain and walk the road to the Cathedral to Santiago de Compostela has grown dramatically. In other words: It has become trendy. Films and documentaries on that subject have also been quite popular among certain crowds. Beside The way, there is a Quebec film, Les doigts croches by Ken Scott, Walking the Camino, a first film by Tristan Cook made in 2013. And now Cook in back with Strangers on the earth. The central figure is cellist Dane Johansen, who travels with his cello on his back. His plan is to record Bach’s Cello suites in 36 churches on the Camino. But Johansen was not planning to give concerts to other pilgrims. Johansen is interviewed about having to perform in cold churches after spending all day walking in the cold rain. He’s not the only one being asked to comment. Thankfully Strangers on the earth is not a talking head documentary. We never see the interviewees, they are heard in voice over as we see them walking down the road and interacting with each other, their commentaries serving to narrate the images we see. A series of photos are used to tell the story of a man meeting and falling in love with a woman on the road to the Cathedral. Soon though, the man tells us, the relationship goes sour. Another man angrily decries the false pilgrims who take a bus or a taxi to do part of the pilgrimage. One man (or maybe it‘s the same?) has a long tirade where he pompously theorizes about the meaning and importance of it all. If I would choose a film about Santiago de Compostela, it would be Strangers on the earth. Cinematographer Iskra Valtcheva’s images too are beautiful to ignore. Beside her contribution, there was little that could stir me. This is topic that I find tiresome and has a limited appeal.
Strangers on the earth
In English, Spanish and German with English subtitles.