“Fidelio, l’odyssée d’Alice” (2014)
Fidelity has long been used as a thematic excuse for Hollywood excursions into cheap eroticism, using the subject as an excuse for glossy portraits of high profile versions of Joe Sarno films so convoluted in their melodrama they would make Douglas Sirk weep.
“Fidelio, l’odyssée d’Alice”, begins rather inauspiciously with a long shot of a nude woman swimming in the ocean, a moment which suggests both innocence and sexuality, a lyrical balance which will define this extraordinary debut feature by Lucie Borieteau. The woman is thirty year old Alice (Ariane Labed), who has been assigned as a second engineer of the freighter Fidelio, leaving her boyfriend, graphic designer Felix (Anders Danielsen Lie), for an extended period in a situation of long distance career separation that has been well traveled in the movies (the examples in the war genre alone are too lengthy to contemplate), but seldom with the complexity of feeling and rarely, if ever, with such a frank honesty regarding the equality of desires within men and women, a perspective not limited through overt sexuality (there is that, but in a move of startling originality, the sex scenes actually advance character development) but in the ways both genders find definition by shared experience with loneliness, relationship insecurity and a palpable fear that one will be unable to find someone who might significantly ease the absence of reciprocal intimacy.
Alice’s world is a world of men, her romantic isolation magnified by the fact that she is the lone woman among the Fidelio’s crew, but in a twist that allows for a naturally reactive character development rather than narrative contrivance, there isn’t a hint of sexism on the ship. Regardless of her gender, little is made of this division, a perspective that is both refreshing and essential in dispensing with feminist manifestos, thus allowing the film to examine the more valuable, less thematically restrictive shared human experience. Alice is truly one with the crew, and with divisive gender boundaries neutralized, the film is able to realize a non-critical but realistic dynamic in which individual personalities rally in the comfort of the company of the situational peer rather than one determined by biology. It is a camaraderie born of voluntary inclusion rather than dictated by social doctrine. Alice is openly welcomed, without a hint of self-consciousness, into the fold of raucous fraternity; the unfiltered coarseness of macho braggadocio and profane jocularity is shared with Alice, not as acts of humiliation, but of bonding.
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