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Film / The Milky Way (1969)

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What's up, Jesus?

The Milky Way is a 1969 film directed by Luis Buñuel.

Two tramps, Pierre and Jean, are going on a pilgrimage. They are traveling along the traditional pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, from France to the town of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where the bones of St. James are said to lie in a cathedral. Along the way they see a series of strange events based on the Bible and Catholic history and theology. A strange man appears and tells them to father children named "Ye Are My People" and "No More Mercy". A boy with stigmata appears by the roadside, and hails them a ride. Nuns are crucified. The Angel of Death appears. And other weird stuff happens.

The All-Star Cast of French cinema includes Michel Piccoli as the Marquis de Sade and Delphine Seyrig as a prostitute.


  • Answer Cut: The manager and staff at a fancy restaurant are debating the nature of Jesus's divinity. A waiter suggests that Jesus must have been like a mortal man, saying "He must walk like the rest of us." Cut to Jesus running up to his disciples, telling them that they're late for the wedding at Cana.
  • Artistic License – Religion: The filmmakers mostly got everything about Catholic theology right. But, contrary to the film which proclaims this belief a heresy, it is a Catholic dogma that even the newborn babies are still tainted by original sin (which accordingly has to be cleansed by baptism).
  • Book Ends: At the start of their trip Jean and Pierre are met a man who urges them to find a prostitute and have children named "Ye Are My People" and "No More Mercy". At the end, outside Santiago de Compostela, they meet a prostitute who says she wants them to impregnate her and she will give her children those names.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: When a priest tells a story about a miracle performed by the Virgin Mary, he looks straight at the camera repeatedly.
  • Creator Cameo: Bunuel is the pope getting executed by revolutionaries.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: In one scene some Catholic priests dig up the corpse of a dead priest and burn it, along with the heretical writings they discovered after the priest's death. The moon is set by a very ominous bell that tolls throughout the scene.
  • Flynning: The scene where a Jansenist and a Jesuit debate points of religious theory—while having a swordfight. They bleat bits of doctrine at each other while swords clash.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: The two guys that crash the ritual burning of the dead priest make their escape by stealing the clothes and gear of two hunters that went off swimming.
  • The Grim Reaper: Pierre and Jean encounter the Angel of Death at the site of a car wreck.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: The camera pans over an old-timey map as a narrator explains the medieval tradition of making pigrimages to Santiago de Compostela.
  • Little People Are Surreal: A man walks up to the two pilgrims, tells them to father two children by a prostitute, and give the children weird names. How to make this even weirder? Have a little person show up out of thin air and materialize next to the man.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: The Priscillian religious ceremony descends into an orgy.
  • Random Events Plot: A series of random, bizarre sights as two tramps walk across France and Spain. They're all Bible- or Catholicism-themed, but they aren't linked.
  • Road Trip Plot: Two tramps go on pilgrimage from France to Santiago de Compostela on the Atlantic coast of Spain, and see a lot of weird stuff on the way.
  • Shot at Dawn: Jean imagines the Pope being shot at dawn.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Jean calls for God to smite him, and a thunderbolt hits...the hut behind him.
  • Surrealism: It's a Bunuel film, so it couldn't not have this.
    • Why is a nun being crucified? Why is Jesus wandering around 20th century Spain?
    • The two other men that the pilgrims meet take rooms at an inn. One has a woman appear in his room out of nowhere. The other has a man appear in his room out of nowhere. Nothing naughty happens in either instance.
    • Jean has an Imagine Spot daydream in which he imagines the Pope being executed by firing squad. This is followed by the man next to him hearing the sound of the rifles. The ones from Jean's daydream.
  • Tempting Fate: Our pilgrims are hitchhiking but a car zooms past them. Jean says "I hope you crash! The car promptly crashes.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The film was meticulously researched and contains many accurate references to the Bible, theology, and ecclesiastical history—most of which aren't explained. In the early going, the two tramps encounter a man who urges them to find a prostitute and have children named "Ye Are My People" and "No More Mercy". This seemingly random bit of nonsense is actually a direct lift from the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Hosea. And some Jansenist extremists really crucified nuns with their own consent.