Monday, 16 May 2016

victoria (w&d sebastian schipper; w olivia neergaard-holm; eike frederik schulz)

I feel mildly guilty for not enjoying Victoria as much as one is supposed to. I say this because in some ways Victoria is the holy grail; a foreign language art-thriller, possessed of a dose of technical genius which is matched by some lovely acting and a penumbra of dramatic tension. In fact, from this viewer’s POV, the last phrase is the problem. Because, yes, in the first hour, that dramatic tension feels all-enveloping, colouring everything. The young, friendless Spanish woman, all alone in Berlin, hooking up in the middle of the night with a bunch of pissed, raw Berliners: something has to give sooner or later. The tension of the build-up to this “something” is indeed, pervasive. Every second feels pregnant with the dread that is to come. Time slows down and the relentless camera’s refusal to cut means we, like Victoria, are trapped by the onrushing force of destiny; these quiet moments can’t last forever, very soon, within the next hour, the levee is going to break. My problem with the film came when that break occurred. Suddenly we find ourselves in a well made Gangster B-movie. Swarthy hoods with guns and bleached-blond criminal uber-men. Shoot-outs and urban terror. The film’s credibility bubble burst for me somewhere along the way and so did the dramatic tension; all those carefully assembled minutes, so skilfully stitched together, seemed to be frittered away. Who is Victoria? What’s her real problem? I realise these are banal questions but in a film so resolutely and titularly dedicated to its protagonist, they feel relevant and I don’t feel as though I ever found the answers, no matter how artfully Laia Costa portrayed her. Her acting and that of the Brandon-esque Frederick Lau as Sonne are lovely examples of unmannered naturalism, and their love story almost began to convince as a kind of harder-edged Berlin Before Sunrise, but in the end the tragic stakes didn’t quite seem to have been earned. Perhaps my sense of anti-climax could be explained by declaring that at the end of the day, having done the hard work, I felt as though the script let its characters off too lightly, they could have suffered more. I realise that dying a violent death is considered by some to be a cruel way to go, but in this case it just goes to show that in cinema, or fiction, there are all kinds of violent deaths, some more excoriating than others. On the plus side, this is only a film that disappoints because it sets its bar so high; the talent and flair of its originators is not in doubt. (The camera work of Sturla Brandth Graven being the real star of the show.)

No comments: