Post Holocaust “Voyages” travels to Connelly Cinema this weekend

Bridget Cleary

The Spring 2002 Cultural Film Series ends on a powerful note with the cinematic offering “Voyages” (1999). It takes the audience across continents, around language barriers, and through emotional perspectives in order to tell the tales of three Jewish, female Holocaust survivors coming to terms with their past.

“Voyages”, the award-winning directing debut from France’s Emmanuel Finkiel, is essentially an attempt to show how memory can be fragile and fragmented, yet always permeate present actions. Unlike typical Hollywood films, “Voyages” refuses to deny the harshness of the Holocaust, or the unpredictability of life, and thus the ending of the journey is both serious and enigmatic.

Finkiel impressively employed unprofessional actors to play the main characters, which adds truth and realism to the narrative. The film is also reflective of Finkiel’s own life, since his father was fortunate to have escaped the first roundup of Jews in Paris, although unfortunately his uncle and grandparents did not. Though Finkiel’s father escaped, he never fully came to terms with the experience and presented his son with a thoroughly subjective view of the event. Therefore, the director’s own knowledge of the Holocaust no doubt influenced the film’s theme: that to fully comprehend the past, it must be revisited.

The first story in the film is set in Poland, where a married couple travels from Warsaw to Auschwitz on a bus that breaks down. The second portrait is of a woman on a search to hopefully re-unite with her father, who has long been thought dead. The third allegory concerns a Russian woman who travels to Israel to find a long-lost cousin. Joined loosely together by fate, Finkiel masterfully documents the quests of these Holocaust survivors striving to connect with past surroundings, lost family and distant memories.

It is no mistake that “Voyages” has been voted by numerous critics as one of the top 10 films of 1999. “Voyages” not only has a resonant and compelling plot, but Finkiel’s outstanding directing nuances make an indelible mark on the film itself. Under the tutelage of such film revolutionaries as Jean-Luc Godard and Krzysztof Kieslowski, Finkiel learned camera techniques that ingeniously convey time and space, fragile character connections and powerful yet modest imagery. The triptych style of the film pays homage to Kieslowski, as Finkiel also felt that one story could not encompass the ideas in “Voyages”. Finkiel’s richness through simplicity is visible in such camera shots as when immigrants witness their first sunset in Israel. Here, the camera not only communicates the magnitude of the moment, but unobtrusively captures the essence of the human heart.

Finkiel’s camera work also delves deeper into the characters’ surroundings, revealing to the audience that even everyday milieus can be intricate and evocative. Though effectual and nostalgic, Finkiel’s direction never permits the film to fall into the trap of sentimentality. By humbly refraining from over-directing and allowing the characters to reveal their stories, Finkiel manages to portray much more than a story. “Voyages” is a celebration of the human spirit as it journeys through life. Critics and movie-goers alike will have much to look forward to if “Voyages” is any indication of Finkiel’s future works.

“Voyages” will be screened four times in the Connelly Center Cinema this weekend: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Monday at 7 p.m. Only the Monday evening show will offer an introduction about the film, as well as a discussion, “A Modern Odyssey,” with Archie Perlmutter, following the screening. Admission is $3 for students with proper identification and $4 for all others. For further information, please call the Communication Department at x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the Cultural Film Series’ website at: