A Climactic Understanding: Le Grand Voyage


In the film Le Grand Voyage, we get a real sense of the contrast between traditional Islam and the rest of the world. The story follows two main characters, a devout Muslim man and his non-Muslim son, on a road trip from France all the way to Mecca. We are nearing the end of the father’s life and his last wish for his life is to make the Haj. Islam has a variety of different portrayals in the film which I think really makes the film so beautiful and ultimately moving.

The most striking scene for me happens at the end of the film in Mecca. After Rebe’s father doesn’t return from the mosque on the first day of their arrival in Mecca, Rebe begins to panic and the next day goes to the mosque to find his father. In his hysteria, Rebe is escorted out of the crowds and underground to what seems to be a holding room, but to Rebe and the audience’s surprise, he was lead to a room, with a spiritual leader and around ten bodies covered with white cloths evenly spaced on a big gold-colored mat on the floor. This scene was most striking to me. The guards that lead him to that room must have assumed his father was dead, suggesting that this sort of thing was common. We see about ten bodies covered on the mat, unclaimed and unknown. The colors and the slow movement of the spiritual leader really made the scene even more powerful. The timing of this climactic moment in the story is also beautiful; everything built up until this scene and this still and silent moment. And at this point in the film we fully understand Rebe’s love for his father.

In the beginning of the story we have a sort of one-sided perspective of Islam, which is in the perspective of the son. The son, Rebe, who is not a believer, views his father’s religion as out of place, impractical and somewhat out of date. The father seems cold, selfish, uneducated, demanding and a variety of other negative qualities in the beginning, which reflect poorly on his religion. The father does not include his son in his faith but rather he practices alone without waking or inviting his son. This seems fairly cold and distant at first but later the film leads us to better understand the true character of Rebe’s father. The film starts out portraying Islam in the way that Rebe views it, but slowly he gains a broader range of understanding through out their journey together.

As we move through the story, we repeatedly see the father’s discipline and faithfulness in the midst of chaos and despair. The son reaches for other sinful devices, such as alcohol and women, instead of faith and this leaves him more desperate and empty. After forgiving his sons trespasses again and again, we see the patience and loving authority of the father. He does not push his faith onto his son but rather is an example. As the story progresses and gets closer and closer to Mecca, the film, and the father, get much lighter, there is laughter, quiet loving words exchanged and we begin to see the vastness and universal character of Islam. The father finally does not seem out of place or out of date. We can tell that the son is taking in the beauty and really is beginning to love and understand his father.


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