Travel Diaries: Our Review Of ‘Far: The Story of a Journey Around the World’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - April 12, 2019
Travel Diaries: Our Review Of ‘Far: The Story of a Journey Around the World’

If you’ve ever wanted to just pack up and leave it all behind, Far: The Story of a Journey Around the World, might be the film for you. For three and a half years, filmmakers and partners Patrick Allgaier and Gwendolin Weisser left their home country of Germany to embark on a trip around the globe, heading out east with the hopes of eventually returning again from the west. To up the ante even further, they refuse to take any sort of air travel, instead relying on buses, trains, ships and a ton of hitchhiking.

Clearly, this was a massive undertaking and Allgaier and Weisser shoot their journey completely by themselves (as far as I’m aware), creating an immediacy that takes us along for the ride as they immerse themselves in other cultures and meet many different kinds of people. There’s certainly a level of commitment and bravery that’s to be admired in watching these two turn their back on their day-to-day lives and propel themselves into the world and it’s easy to get vicariously swept up in this seemingly improbably quest. According to the press materials, Far was the most successful documentary at the German box-office in 2017 and a quote attributed to Hermann Thieken, Chair of AG Kino, states:

“This film had no marketing budget, no advertising schedule, no subsidies – it was successful on its own merits, by getting people excited. When has a phenomenon like this ever hit our cinemas before? Sometimes there are miracles in this life. Far is the cinematic miracle of 2017.”

Whether this is a cinematic miracle or just a glorified travel diary, however, depends on your vantage point. While the journey itself is no doubt miraculous, the film itself is a little choppy, jumping from sequence to sequence with rapid-fire speed that doesn’t always allow for any particular moment to settle in. I imagine it must have been hard to condense a multi-year journey into two hours of screen time, and there are large gaps in the timeline that are essentially skipped over, but there’s a haphazardness to the way a lot of Far is edited together that makes it feel less cinematic than it could have.

The film preaches over and over again, through the dual narration of both of the filmmakers, that the goal is to “replace fantasy with experience” in each place they travel, in order to tear down stereotypes about other cultures. This is a worthy objective but for all the intermingling with other people and places, isn’t this whole endeavour still just a privileged fantasy anyway? It’s hard not to shake the fact that this is still a young, pretty white couple enacting their Quixotic dream because they can, managing to acquire foreign visas fairly easily and never really facing that much adversity. They also must come from somewhat of a well-off background, since financial matters are never an issue, especially when Gwen gets pregnant and they settle down for weeks in a beautiful Mexican shore house. It’s not that I longed for these two to struggle more but there’s also no comment from them about this either, making it seem like anyone can just drop everything and go on permanent vacation and it’ll all work out.

Despite these nagging issues, Far is still highly watchable as an unorthodox travel guide, featuring an array of wonderful footage of places that many of us will never see in person. And in a society where we get chained to places and things that don’t really fulfill us, its idea of “home” as a transitory concept that encompasses anywhere under the sun is an enlightening one.

  • Release Date: 4/12/2019
This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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