Directed by Volker Schlondorff. Starring Sam Shepard, Julie Delpy, Barbara Sukowa, Tracy Lind, Dieter Kirchechner. (1991, PG-13, 117 min.)
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., July 24, 1992
For a film about a world traveler, Voyager really doesn't go anywhere. This relatively straightforward adaptation of Max Frisch's novel, Homo Faber, scripted by Rudy Wurlitzer, tells the story of a man who experiences a chain of coincidences which result in inevitable tragedy. For Walter Faber, an engineer who designs dams around the globe, life is simply a function of scientific principles. He is a loner who can't sustain a relationship with a woman because of the emotional implications, a man who does not read fiction, appreciate art, or even dream because he cannot fathom that which he cannot explain. His surname is appropriate -- it's Latin for “forger of own fate.” When he meets a young German woman on an ocean cruise to France, however, his carefully constructed equilibrium is thrown off-balance: what is it about her, something so familiar, that stirs in him a romantic, yet paternal love? Because you figure out who she is long before he does, Voyager is without any dramatic tension; it methodically moves toward its fateful revelation and resolution with little emotion. (For this reason, it's probably the type of fiction that would be palatable to Faber.) Although his intentions are honorable, director Schlondorff plays it so straight that you wish for some of the wicked edge in his best film, The Tin Drum. Shepard is not much help either. His monotone delivery and subdued expression may fit the character -- he's a “man's man,” so to speak -- but they don't work for the film as a whole. Indeed, his performance is as tight-lipped as the movie, leaving you without a guide in this trip through the human experience.