OUR JOURNEY: MAD AND REASONABLERoberto Fontolan
Based on a true story, the film The Way Back from the Australian Peter Weir tells about a foolish journey. In a literal sense: in 1939 six detainees succeeded in escaping from a Siberian Gulag. On foot. They enter frost-covered forests and struggle along mountains and valleys. While you are seated in the audience pages of Herling and Salamov come to mind; writers that have forever engrained in our minds the physical horror of Siberian prison camps. A cold that never abandons you, the tattered shoes, those pieces of mouldy bread; the sense of dissolution of man, an omnipresent violence. After their escape they are six escapees who proceed, free, in a nearly unknown world, orienting themselves using the sun when it shines. For the rest of the time they find themselves idle, hiding in the wilderness. They cry, they shout, and they search. Always on foot. Slowly snow gives way to grass, grass to stones, stones to desert. Now they have courage but it appears they’ve become lost. Nevertheless, they must continue walking with bleeding feet and lifeless bodies. Some die, some hope to die, but even still one of the travellers does not concede defeat. To proceed, the others drink from his confidence. He is as innocent as them and, like the others, he is gripped by a moral serious moral issue: their sins to forgive and his own sins to be forgiven. Days, weeks, months pass by. A sense of time is lost but every day there is the reason to begin walking again. We will not reveal the end of the film but the beauty it bears: the impressive realism of marching toward this infinite need that is within ourselves – we can not march on the earth if we do not march “within” ourselves – and toward this infinite presence that surrounds us, where even the most hostile conditions can offer a pretext to proceed. Wood to keep warm, water to quench one's thirst – you do need, however, to search for these things. So, one after the other the frontiers are broken, even the hardest and most incomprehensible one: death.
The Way Back was projected at the Meeting and, unexpectedly, we felt the impression that the Meeting is just another face of this same foolish journey; a journey that covered thousands of kilometres, from the far east in Japan to the north in Canada, from the southern nation of Argentina to the African nation of Egypt, up to cold, icy places and down to the fiery earthy hells. This journey has pushed itself from the limits of scientific knowledge and beyond the limit of disease up to the dawn of homo religiosus and the profundities of artistic genius. A foolish journey, exposed to the unbelievable and ironic – everyone could have escaped but only a few dared to do so – and to fragility and betrayal – the legs gave up and the mind became clouded. In today’s world it seems that some of the same “foolishness” is needed to realize such a rational and reasonable work that consists of entering into a relationship with the infinite, but it is this that even the least bit sincere man feels to be most important and decisive. No gulag can prevent it.