Invitation to a Journey

Invitation to a Journey ★★★½

L’invitation au Voyage is about going out to turn inward — leaving the comfort of one's home to rediscover what one holds inside.

In a theme bar full of sailing imagery, complete with portholes on the walls, and an intense sense of exoticism, director Germaine Dulac's protagonist finds refuge from her philandering husband and life of empty routine. Initially uncomfortable and, perhaps, ashamed, she sits alone, hiding behind the high collar of her fur, watching the youthful merry-makers around her. Eventually, after rebuffing a man who was sure his grand gesture of an armful of bouquets would win her affection, the protagonist is approached by a watchful, quiet man, whose gold braid-trimmed coat marks him as either an employee of the bar, or a ship's officer.

What is true doesn't matter, because his presence — his attention, his appearance, his attention — free her from earthly mundanity, and allow her to explore her dreams of escape: of being at sea, and the romance of travel. Pushed into a fantasy of the sea by a cool breeze, blowing through an open porthole in the wall, the protagonist rushes to look through it, only to see a filthy alley outside the club. In spite of this stark reminder of the reality in which she lives, though, she returns, if only briefly, to her shipboard fantasy, resisting the earth's fierce desire to pull her back into her real life. (The man, too, has fantasies; his are about boats and tits, far more earthly and simple than those the protagonist entertains.)

Initially, it seems as if all of the protagonist's internal traveling has been triggered by the arrival of this mysterious, solicitous man: as if he is what has freed her and that, were it not for him, she would be unable to escape, even emotionally. When he abandons her, however, for a dance with a girl for hire, the protagonist is forced to grapple with his role in what she's experience and, in a touch very much in keeping with Dulac's depiction of women in relationships, realizes that her temporary escape has been hers alone, not his. She gets up to leave, symbolically breaking the human form — presumably a captain — off of the small, souvenir toy ship he's bought her, and walks away, having been reminded that, if her situation is to change, it will be through her doing, not that of a dream stranger, no matter how pretty his words or face.

52 Films by Women: 2023 | 2022 | watchlist

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