Volker Schlondorff's Voyager, which is based in the 1950s, is a pretty interesting mix of drama, suspense, tension and tragedy that pits Oscar winner Sam Shepard in the lead role of a man named Walter Faber. Walter is an engineer whose work takes him all over the world but his life changes when he travels from New York to Paris and by chance meets a beautiful young woman named Sabeth (Julie Delpy). Their attraction is not only mutual, but instant as well and while her resemblance to Walter's ex-girlfriend is uncanny, despite some differences they really hit it off.
When the pair arrive in Paris, Sabeth tells him that she's going to hitchhike her way across the country and then the continent but Walter's not so sure that this is a good idea. He convinces her to join him on a drive to Rome, and their romance flourishes along the way. You see, Sam was a fairly clinical guy until he met Sabeth. Having had his heat broken in the past, until recently he'd put up some pretty obvious walls and became very detached from the people around him. As he grows closer to Sabeth and she to him, the walls come down and he lets himself get closer to her... and then he learns who she really is and what she really means to him.
Based on a novel called Homo Faber by author Max Frisch, Voyager is a well made film even if its 'twist' is a bit predictable. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the truth behind the relationship we see develop and in fact, thanks to some well played flashbacks, it's more or less telegraphed to us. Voyager isn't really about the twist, per se, but rather about the morality of it all. The film, to a certain extent, is able to place us in the shoes of the two central characters and if nothing else make us think about what we'd do in that same, unlikely situation. Going into a whole lot more detail about that would ruin the ending of the film for those who haven't seen it but let it suffice to say that what could have been played for cheap shock value is, in Schlondorff's capable hands, turned into something considerably more interesting.
The picture is deliberately, if languidly paced and so if it doesn't move a light speed, it doesn't really matter. It allows for the character development to occur almost naturally and as such, to the betterment of the picture, it never feels forced. Shepard and the rather fetching Delpy fall into their rolls gracefully. Shepard, as those who has seen The Right Stuff, does a fine job of playing rather distant, clinical types and he puts those skills to good use in the film. Delpy is likeable enough in her part and you can easily see why Shepard's character falls for her the way he does - she's appealing, but also very familiar to him.
The production values on display throughout the film are quite impressive and Schlondorff has done a fine job not only in capturing what we can only assume is an accurate look and feel of the period in which the film takes place but also in maintaining the tone throughout the picture. From the opening sequence in which Walter prepares for an airplane crash and contemplates all of what that can and does entail to the road trip sequences that takes the couple through a post war Europe, the film is always impressive and beautifully shot.
Despite some slow spots and a bit of predictability as far as the story goes, Voyager turns out to be a pretty interesting and very well made film. It's very melodramatic and approaches overwrought at times because of this, but the performances and the cinematography more than make up for those shortcomings.
NOTE: This review is based on a test disc that may or may not accurately reflect finished, retail product
Scorpion presents Voyager in an impressive 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer which, according to their website, was approved by director Volker Schlondorff. There's some fine grain here and there and if you want to be picky there's some specks that pop up from time to time but the image, overall, is quite film-like. There are no authoring quirks like compression artifacts or edge enhancement to note and color reproduction generally looks quite good. There are a few scenes that look a bit softer than others but this appears to be an intentional stylistic choice. All in all, the movie looks very good.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track isn't all that fancy but it doesn't need to be. Fairly dialogue heavy, this isn't a film that would have made much use of a surround track so the low-fi mix on the DVD is quite appropriate. Dialogue is easy to follow, the levels are well balanced, and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. The movie sounds fine.
Three separate on-camera interviews with actress Julie Delpy, Director Volker Schlondorff and writer Rudy Wurlitzer make up the bulk of the extra features. The interviews are pretty decent and shed a fair bit of light on what it was like working on the picture. Schlondorff talks about his intentions with the picture and lets us in on where he was at while making it while Delpy talks about her co-stars and shares some experiences from the set. The film's original trailer, a handful of deleted scenes, menus and chapter stops round out a decent array of extras on the disc.
A fairly compelling drama, Voyager mixes up some arthouse polish and moments of suspense quite effectively and it makes for solid viewing. The DVD release is a good one, with a nice transfer and some solid extras. Assuming the test disc is represents the finished disc, consider this one recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.