“PILGRIMAGE”— Portuguese Sailors Head East


Portuguese Sailors Head East

Amos Lassen

Portuguese director João Botelho’s “Pilgrimage” is based on the travels of 16th-century author Fernão Mendes Pinto. It is a story filled with the adventures of Portuguese sailors heading east (to India, China, Japan and so on). It is controversial in that it has been accused of historical inaccuracy and written off by the Catholic Church.

Claúdio da Silva plays Mendes Pinto during his voyages and after he has returned and is writing his book, eager for recognition.

Pinto analyzed his voyages and journeys so that he could  leave a legacy. After he returned to Europe, he felt the need to understand and record the journey he lived, but he also realized that beyond the dangers felt and lived there is something he left that changed him forever. We see him in a kind of existential limbo that made him unable to be himself. His journey had been physical and admittedly psychological trying. His pilgrimage was interrupted by physical and meteorological storms and there was personal and national uncertainty in distant places . On the sea he was disoriented, there were riots on board and despair by those that were with him as they also lost their orientation.

We see the clash of cultures between the West and the East, proving that globalization had begun.  The film is more suggestive than explicit. We see beautiful landscapes of the eastern lands that add to the visual beauty of the film.