(director: Volker Schlöndorff; screenwriters: based on the Max Frisch novel Homo Faber/Rudy Wurlitzer; cinematographers: Giorgos Arvanitis/Pierre Lhomme; editor: Dagmar Hirtz; music: Stanley Myers; cast: Sam Shepard (Walter Faber), Julie Delpy (Sabeth), Barbara Sukowa (Hannah), Dieter Kirchlechner (Herbert Hencke), Traci Lind (Charlene), Deborah Lee-Furness (Ivy), August Zirner (Joachim); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Eberhard Junkersdorf; Anchor Bay; 1991-France-in German and English with some English subtitles)

“Only bearable for throwing out a number of alluring literary ideas, otherwise it’s bogged down by an overload of symbolism.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Under the flat direction of Volker Schlöndorff (“The Handmaid’s Tale”/”Swann in Love”/”The Tin Drum “) the film veers between an Oedipal (offers a modern variation on that Greek myth) and road movie (handsomely shot in Mexico, France, Italy, the United States and Greece), filled with obvious symbolism but still chocked full of literary ideas. It’s based on the 1957 Max Frisch novel Homo Faber and is written by Rudy Wurlitzer.

Middle-aged world-weary globe-trotting traveler, loner (unable to maintain serious relationships) and emotionless New York construction engineer Walter Faber (Sam Shepard) survives a plane crash in the desert of Mexico in 1957. He delays a trip home to visit in the Yucatan jungle a friend from the past, Joachim (August Zirner ), with his German salesman brother Herbert Hencke (Dieter Kirchlechner). Herbert is a passenger on the tragic flight, who tells him his brother married a pregnant Jewish girl named Hannah (Barbara Sukowa) who divorced him and in 1939 returned to Munich never to be heard from again. Faber returns quickly to New York upon seeing that Joachim hanged himself. He then embarks on an ocean voyage to France. On the ship, he meets a German student who studied in the States named Sabeth (Julie Delpy), a ravishing girl in her twenties who captures his heart. It soon becomes obvious to the viewer (but not to Faber) that she’s his daughter from Hannah, the pregnant girl he abandoned 20 years earlier, just before the onset of World War II, when he was a student in Switzerland. After the voyage, Faber plans to take Hannah to Greece to see her mom. Through constant flashbacks Faber pieces his life back together by recalling his student days in Zurich, from before the war.

The film is only bearable for throwing out a number of alluring literary ideas, otherwise it’s bogged down by an overload of symbolism.

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