Equal parts road movie and Greek tragedy, Volker Schlondorff’s latest literary adaptation (of Max Frisch’s German classic Homo Faber) makes good use of fine material.
In this moral tale without a moral, Walter Faber (Swiss in the book, Yank in pic) is an inveterate traveler, an engineer and pragmatist approaching middle age in the not-yet-defined postwar Europe of the 1950s. Sam Shepard is ideal as Faber, the quintessentially cool cowboy-loner-businessman.
Via black & white flashbacks, Faber recalls his days as a student in Zurich before the war: he was in love with Hanna, a German Jew pregnant with his child. Waiting for a flight to Venezuela, Faber learns that his friend Joachim married Hanna, and they had a daughter but divorced shortly afterward.
Back in New York, he decides to travel to Paris by ship. On board he meets Sabeth (Julie Delpy), 20ish and returning home after studying in the States. Faber initially ignores her until her charm and almost unbearably fragile beauty begin to take effect. Is it love or a protective, paternal instinct?
A well-told tale, with a fine cast and good tech credits.