Travel films have inspired me, given me forewarning, and most of all created false expectations. Do you know the parts of movies where filmmakers decide that they are just going to skip over the dialogue and play music while showing characters’ facial expressions or panning across a landscape? I want to know what happens in those in-between moments. This is especially important for travel films. I don’t just want these movies to inspire me. I want them to instruct me as well. I’ve seen the following movies multiple times and am always left with the same questions.
1. Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
The movie: Frances, jilted and squeezed for alimony by her cheating husband, goes to Italy thanks to her lesbian best friends giving her their gay tour of Italia. Once there, she sees a for sale ad for a house that stirs something in her soul, makes the impulse buy of a lifetime, and creates a life for herself in Tuscany.
The questions that linger: When Frances signs the papers to buy the house in the movie, she asks an official, “I can just buy a house? Just like that?” The official says, “What are you going to do, steal it?” Honestly, I don’t know what the property laws are in Italy. But seriously, would Italian immigration just let you hunker down in the Italian countryside? Again, I’m no expert, but I’m going to have to go with not really. Since this is based on a true story, maybe I need to pick up the book for clues.
2. Before Sunrise (1995)
The movie: Two twenty-something strangers, one French, one American, filled with existential crises and lacking an ability for small talk, meet and start conversing on a train. The train stops in Vienna. They decide that they don’t want the conversation to end. So they both get off and spend the evening in the deserted Vienna streets, just hanging out and talking.
The questions that linger: I love this movie so much. The characters have an element of carefree freedom of expression to which I can only aspire. However, this movie is one step away from an after-school special. Seriously. You get off of a train, at night, with no one around, with a complete stranger, in a country that is not your own. How do you have moments like these abroad without worrying about being potentially assaulted or worse?
3. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
The Movie: Two best friends take a trip around South America on a motorcycle. They laugh and fight. They struggle with each other and ideas. They’re young and often just scraping by. If you take out the fact that this is based on a real controversial figure, this movie is basically perfect.
The questions that linger: One of the characters has severe asthma. During the film, an asthma attack is portrayed. Talk about a horror scene. As an asthmatic myself, watching him gasp for air so realistically always makes me wonder, how did he face the open air and elements for that entire trip without dying?
I wonder if there are movies that are out there that are both entertaining and instructional. I haven’t found one yet, but I’ll keep looking.
What are your favorite travel films? How have they measured up to your real life travel adventures?