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SEA JOURNEY INTO THE NIGHT

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by Kitty Kino

grade: 7.5

Made in 1985, Sea Journey into the Night is an extremely topical and courageous feature film that takes a close look at the role of women within the society in which we live, resulting in a deep and never banal reflection not only on patriarchy, but also – and above all – on the importance of loving oneself. At the Viennale 2023, as part of the Filmarchiv Austria’s retrospective Keine Angst.

A new identity

According to psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, the sea journey into the night is a journey within oneself during which everyone is led to embody parts of different gender identities. The feature film Sea Journey into the Night, made by director Kitty Kino in 1985 and re-presented to the audience at the Viennale 2023 as part of the Filmarchiv Austria’s retrospective Keine Angst, is therefore also based on this concept.

The journey we are talking about, then, is a particular journey experienced by the young and charming model Lilly Bartstoppel (played by Anita Kolbert, the director’s sister), who, following an affair with a married man and after several work disappointments, must prepare for an important meeting with a renowned Italian fashion designer. Suddenly, however, the woman begins to grow facial hair, until she finds herself with a thick beard. After initially trying to hide this problem of hers and after a meeting with her lover who does not seem to understand her situation at all, Lilly decides to leave the house at night dressed as a man in order to experience this new, unexpected identity of hers firsthand and to the full.

Made, in fact, in 1985, Sea Journey into the Night immediately proved to be an extremely topical and courageous feature film that takes a close look at the role of women within the society in which we live, resulting in a deep and never banal reflection not only on patriarchy, but also – and above all – on the importance of loving oneself and being independent at all times. “Real men love emancipated women.” This is what the protagonist understands at the end of her nocturnal adventure in an underground Vienna where it often happens to meet women who are simply in need of affection or even cowardly men who are only looking for a companion easy to manipulate.

Sea Journey into the Night, then, takes us by the hand into a world where confrontations with oneself, one’s weaknesses, and one’s fears can be very, very hurtful. At the same time, visionary images of elegant figures preparing for a photo shoot, the sun and moon finally coming together creating a beautiful harmony, and the blue that often plays the absolute starring role clearly referring back to the dreamlike and to all that the night itself can symbolize make this interesting little feature by Kitty Kino a decidedly noteworthy work.

Characterized also by a subtle and never excessive irony (as is often the case in the director’s works), Sea Journey into the Night is a decidedly surprising and visually appealing feature film. It is also impossible not to mention its magnetic protagonist who, often performing alone, with her essential but pregnant mimicry helped give the film its own, well-marked personality.

Original title: Die Nachtmeerfahrt
Directed by: Kitty Kino
Country/year: Austria / 1985
Running time: 72’
Genre: comedy
Cast: Anita Kolbert, Wilfried Scheutz, Christine Jirku, Beatrix Wipperich, Anne Mertin, Lotte Loebenstein, Joesi Prokopetz, Georg Trenkwitz, Toni Böhm, Sybille Kos, Maria Marlina, Ernst Josef Läuscher, Paul Schirnhofer, Burt Rose, Mo
Screenplay: Kitty Kino
Cinematography: Frederic-Gerard Kaczek, Hanus Polak
Produced by: Thalia-Film, ORF

Info: the page of Sea Journey into the Night on iMDb; the page of Sea Journey into the Night on the website of the Viennale