Victoria

October 20, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

This small German film has been called a mashup of “Run Lola Run” and “Birdman” by more than one reviewer I have read. However, it does not really succeed at being either. You can see the influence of both films, especially “Lola” (which director, Sebastian Schipper, actually acted in) but film is it’s own thing, for good and bad. Its chief conceit is that it was filmed all in one long, uninterrupted take. Unlike “Birdman,” which uses camera tricks to replicate a single take, this film is the real thing. That, by itself, is quite an artistic accomplishment and speaks to the discipline of director, crew and actors, all of whom had to think quickly and roll with whatever came up. This is most true of lead actress, Laia Costa, who is the center of the film from first take to last. There are reasons why a director would make this choice (beyond simple pretense). Iñárritu used it in “Birdman” to further the sense of magical realism; Hitchcock used it in “Rope” to create a sort of claustrophobia. Here, Schipper uses it as a means of increasing tension and this is where the “Run Lola Run” comparison comes in. That film was an unrelenting run (literally) from first scene to last. This one cannot begin to match it’s intensity, though, for brief moments, it comes close. The big problem here is in the haphazard pacing. The film starts with Victoria finishing a night of dancing and meeting a young man as she prepares to go home. They start talking and she joins him and his friends at their apartment. The film has a nice conceit in that Victoria is from Spain and speaks no German, so the two of them (and several of his friends) are forced to speak in English. They talk, laugh, and start to follow for each other. It’s a lovely and utterly realistic sequence. The actors excel within Schipper’s naturalistic directing style: their dialogue, body language, facial expressions all seem completely genuine; one could almost believe we are watching a real first date. The problem is that, sweet as that may be, first dates are not exactly exciting for anyone but those on them and we are subjected to just over 50 minutes of this first date in real time. While it definitely created investment in these two people and helped to explain what Victoria chooses to do next, I could feel my audience tuning out around me. When that critical film changes phone call finally arrives, the pace and tone shift very rapidly but many audience members have already been lost. After the call, things go badly and the action takes off and is mostly unrelenting for the remainder of the film (with a very weird dance scene halfway through the action that last maybe 10 minutes and did nothing so much as kill momentum). At 2 hours, 20 minutes, this is not a short film and could have used some tighter editing but, the truth is, I’m not sure which film I preferred. The action film was exciting and engaging but there was nothing revelatory there. I have seen all of that before and I could see exactly how it was going to end up well before it got there. It was fine and exciting but nothing new. The romance, on the other hand, was sweet and beautiful and so utterly real. I cannot remember the last time I saw a relationship that looked so natural on film. That felt like the revelation but it also felt the prologue before the real film and that knowledge kept the audience at bay a bit. The love story was slow: very, very slow. And the action film was very, very fast. Whichever film you would prefer to see, you probably aren’t interested in them as a double feature and that’s the real problem here.

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