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Abstract

Pilgrims experience time in ways that deviate from the norm. The pilgrim’s encounter with time can be disorienting due to environmental changes, physical hardships, and unexpected occurrences. Pilgrims may also feel an intense connection with the historical or personal past. This chapter will examine two films in which pilgrims experience dramatic shifts in the perception of time. Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a cinematic interpretation of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoires by the same name. Bauby, the editor of Elle magazine, suffers a sudden stroke at the height of his career. Subsequent to the stroke, he experiences a condition known as ‘locked-in syndrome’: his cognitive function is intact, but he is incapable of motion or speech. He learns to communicate via a cumbersome technique of listening to someone read the alphabet and blinking to select letters. When a pilgrimage to Lourdes is proposed, Bauby recalls a previous visit to Lourdes. The pilgrimage takes on new meanings as the present informs the past. Unlike the personal experience explored in Schnabel’s film, Luis Buñuel’s film The Milky Way examines encounters with historical time. Buñuel’s pilgrims are heading to Santiago in the 1960’s, and along the way they experience dramatic shifts in chronological time. Although the pilgrims do not seem to be surprised by this, the spectator marvels as the story defies logic by hopscotching across centuries. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and The Milky Way both use film to convey the experience of being transported across time, and each film draws on the artists’ memoires for inspiration. My paper will explore how memoires, memory, time and pilgrimage intersect in these two films.

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