He’s tall, handsome, and middle-aged, and he wears glasses. He’s a scientist, or an artist whose creative juices have run dry. He pursues sex, but only because he wants love. He doesn’t say much, but his forlorn stare speaks volumes. He’s that stoic figure skulking through the beautifully bleak landscapes of Bergman, Antonioni, Wim Wenders — the one suffering from bourgeois-existential-angst disease. The symptom? His body is alive, but his soul is dying.

Voyager gives a slightly new spin to the monosyllabic-depressive art-film Everyman. Adapted from a novel by Max Frisch and directed by Volker Schlondorff (The Tin Drum), this offbeat English-language road movie stars actor-playwright Sam Shepard, who brings his laconic all-American sexiness to the role of Faber, an aimless, globe-trotting engineer who’s looking for love in all the wrong places.

Twenty years ago, Faber parted ways with his lover (Barbara Sukowa), who realized he didn’t want the child she was carrying. He has been a wreck ever since. Now, during one of his Continental voyages (the year is 1957), he has met Sabeth (Julie Delpy), an angelic blond young enough to be his daughter (in fact, she may be his daughter). Driving to Italy, the two stop at a roadside inn and consummate their affair. Faber, reawakened, seems ready to shake off many dusty years of alienation.

Voyager may look like a refined variation on Lolita, but lurking beneath its mildly erotic surface is a dour and rather calculated fable of commitment and destiny. Delpy, who played the hero’s German girlfriend in Europa Europa, has a delicate amorous sweetness. Shepard, on the other hand, slips into the art-house blues all too convincingly. He gives a perfectly accomplished performance as a man who never quite expresses what’s on his mind, and by the time the movie was over, I was hoping not to have to watch one of these characters again for a very long time. C

  • Movie
  • 117 minutes