News from the Locarno Festival

Critic of “Fidelio, l’odyssee d’Alice”

Critic of “Fidelio, l’odyssee d’Alice”



In Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, a woman disguises herself as a man. While director Lucie Borleteau was not aware of this fact when naming her film (she was referencing a type of cargo ship used by the Navy), she agrees it is an apt comparsion. The subversion of gender roles is a “driving engine” in Fidelio, l’odyssée d’Alice (Fidelio, the Odyssey of Alice), screening as part of the Concorso internazionale. In the film, the titular Alice (Ariane Labed) is a mechanic who leaves her boyfriend to take a job on a ship—where she discovers that the captain is a former lover.

“The story idea is based in reality,” explains Borleteau at the press conference for the film, “my friend has the job that Alice has in the film.” It was important to Borleteau not to theorize or dramatize Alice’s journey in the film. “Alice carries out a man’s job effortlessly, and also remains feminine. She’s a sailor, a woman, with a man at each port – it’s like the cliché. But she has nothing to conquer, she is just doing her job.” It was also a conscious choice on Borleteau’s part to make a film about a woman who has recently turned 30, as a counter to the usual coming-of-age films about young women. “30 is a very important age for women,” says Borleteau, “it is like walking across a psychological barrier. I wanted to make a film about an adult.”

Lead actress Labed, having worked with female directors both here and in Jasmila Zbanic’s Love Island (also screening at the Festival), says that working with a woman is not a conscious choice. “It happens naturally. There is a collaboration that comes easily between women. When working for a man, you can feel more of the power on his end.”

“Forever is a very bad word for love,” says Borleteau on the film’s treatment of traditional monogamy. “I prefer not to know how it turns out. I am not a fan of marriage. Old love goes down with the ship.”


Mallory Andrews
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