In the opening scene of Javier Fesserís
highly-regarded Camino, we are introduced not only to 14 year old
Alexia Gonzalez Barros, a Barcelona native slowly wilting under the
onslaught of cancer, but to her mother, priest and members of the Opus
Dei congregation to which the Barros clan belongs. The sequence is
artfully staged, and manages to pulsate with both significance and a
subtle undercurrent of menace; Alexiaís mother and the attendant throng
seem more concerned with her journey into the next life than with her
physical, emotional or spiritual comfort in this one.
The rest of the film is told largely as a
series of flashbacks, reminiscences and dream sequences. We see an 11
year old Alexia (Nerea Camacho) seemingly in the prime of adolescence;
she enjoys school, has plenty of friends and is looking forward to
taking part in a local drama troupeís production of Cinderella.
She soon begins to suffer mysterious, agonising pains, however, and it
isnít long before the dreaded diagnosis is made.
Camino is based on true events, and
even now Alexia is being considered for beautification by the Catholic
Church for the stoic manner is which she bore the ravages of her
illness. The film is not simply a passive recitation of events or a
formulaic and soul-stirring morality piece; Fesser is highly critical of
what he perceives as the manner in which Catholic sect Opus Dei have
exploited the extended suffering of the teen, and pulls no punches in
depicting the cultish, secretive and stringently conservative nature of
the organisation. He also devotes much time to the impact of the church
on Alexiaís family; her elder sister Nuria is cloistered in an isolated
Opus Dei centre and her mother grows increasingly rigid in her adherence
to Opus Deiís restrictive doctrine. Her doting father Jose simply
attempts to put his love for his daughters before all other
considerations, but his efforts are continually superseded by those of
both his wife and his church.
Regardless of its agenda the film has been
superbly shot and looks uniquely stunning, with a vibrancy and cleverly
attenuated colour palette intermingling at all times. Alex Catalanís
superb cinematography is complemented by a first-rate transfer, and
picture quality is crisp throughout. The 5.1 Castellano soundtrack is
likewise impressive, and though there are no bonus features to speak of
the 2 Ĺ hour runtime doesnít exactly leave you feeling short changed.
Camino picked up no less than six
gongs at the Goya awards, Spainís equivalent of the Oscars, and despite
its extremely limited release schedule worldwide has received
enthusiastic praise from critics.
It is a rich, engaging and deeply measured
meditation on the nature of faith, the meaning of suffering, and both
the redemptive and the punitive consequences of blind adherence to a
religion. Itís certainly a weighty and melodramatic outing, but itís
been so adroitly crafted by Fesser and the performances are so sublime,
particularly that of the young Camacho, that more often that not it