For Reel

Now, Voyager (1942)
November 15, 2015, 2:25 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Irving Rapper
4 Stars
Now, VoyagerBette Davis’ highest-grossing picture at Warner Brothers not only involves the actress’ definitive performance, but it ranks among the most essential weepies of the 1940s. In placing true love against social responsibilities–in addition to serving as a coming out into womanhood story–Now, Voyager reflects the wartime fetishization of sacrifice, where the model of becoming a self-possessed individual is tempered by the assumption that there are ultimately higher forces and responsibilities that one must heed to. Along the way, the film is distinguished by the remarkable metamorphosis of Charlotte Vale (Davis), escaping spinsterdom by becoming a chic, sexually active woman of the world, all before arriving a sense of selfhood that exists somewhere between the two poles. The transformation narrative is reflected in the filmmaking, with director Irving Rapper including two contrasting reveal shots that track from fragmented gestures to a complete unveiling of the woman in her environment. Later on, once Davis has completed her transformation, she catches her image in a window and has a Lacanian moment of self-identification, problematized by the film’s superimposing of her mother’s (Gladys Cooper) image over her own face in a preceding shot. Now, Voyager could be derided as the sudsiest of melodramas, but it transcends such an easy categorization by the enormity in its scope, with Vale’s various adjustments to her character beautifully evoking one’s own tumultuous journey in arriving at a purposed sense of self.