Paths of the Soul
Nyima and his uncle Yang think it’s time for a pilgrimage to Lhasa. On the 2000-kilometre-long road, they throw themselves to the ground every few metres, meanwhile cheerfully braving trucks, earthquakes and the elements. One of the most gripping and thought-provoking pilgrimages in the history of film.
When two inhabitants of a Tibetan mountain village decide to undertake a pilgrimage to the holy city of Lhasa, others join them. A group of eleven people (including a pregnant woman and a girl) eventually sets off on their pilgrimage on foot - a journey lasting months through all kinds of weather over a distance of about 2000 kilometres, partly intended as penance and partly for the peace of mind of others. The Buddhist ritual which forms part of the pilgrimage will surprise Western viewers: every few yards, the travellers throw themselves to the ground, wearing a large apron of animal skin and wooden blocks on their hands for protection. Zhang worked without a script and with non-professional actors, so the boundary between feature and documentary fades. This soberly made road movie juxtaposes beautiful shots of impressive landscapes with more intimate moments, for instance when praying together and when a child is born, for which the journey has to be interrupted briefly.