‘Victoria’ Puts Right What Hollywood Gets So Wrong
If there was ever a film that revealed the growing gap between an increasingly isolated, risk-averse and irrelevant Hollywood and the rest of the world, it’s ‘Victoria’. Sebastian Schipper’s real-time movie is a total triumph, but you wouldn’t think so to read some of the reviews.
The plot is simplicity itself. A young Spanish girl (an astonishing performance from Laia Costa) working in a Berlin cafe goes to a club, meets some guys and gets into a situation that soon spirals out of control. The resulting film is wildly romantic, sexy, terrifying and enthralling, effortlessly capturing what it’s like to be young and have a very edgy night out, but the Wall Street Journal was horrified, describing it as a film about a vivacious girl who falls among thieves. They liked it but clearly had trouble relating to its heroine.
In the UK the film was received with unqualified praise, yet nearly every critic has harped on about the fact that it has a gimmick. ‘Victoria’ is shot in a single take running well over two hours – but who cares about the technique so long as it achieves what it set out to do? After five minutes you’re so involved that you don’t even notice the camerawork. It’s bravura filmmaking, though, with 22 separate locations, a piano recital, car and bike rides and a shootout all in that single take, but hardly anyone mentions what the film is actually about; being young and free to take stupid risks.
If you’re looking for precedents, try A Bout De Souffle, Y Tu Mama Tambien and Run Lola Run, none of which have been successfully remade by Hollywood, an industry too deeply conservative to consider such uncompromising works. Perceptive American critics generally praised the film, which suggests that they too might be fed up with endless angry movies about superheroes blowing stuff up (the latest X-Men movie, the third prequel if anyone cares, strives for relevance with a horrendously misjudged scene set in Auschwitz and still manages to be unwatchably boring).
What matters most is that ‘Victoria’ makes audiences care deeply about these young people, and is as far from the kind of self-conscious Richard Linklater filmmaking as it’s possible to be. It also captures a new phenomenon, a rootless new European generation that finds it easy to move between borders. The film is in three languages, German, Spanish and English, and this accurately reflects parts of the new Europe, where the many of the young can now get by in several languages, and are used to fluidly switching between cultures. Economic migration is fast becoming the norm, making a nonsense of notions about Brexit and border controls.
The version I saw had Spanish subtitles but I believe the UK theatrical cut is in English. Not that it matters, because the intentions of everyone are made crystal clear without the nuances of the dialogue. Hitchcock famously never adjusted to the advent of sound and Schipper follows his example by making most of the language redundant. It’s feelings that count here, and is a heart-in-mouth experience so far removed from banal CGI movies that it seems to have come from another planet – and perhaps it did, because Hollywood no longer speaks to or for the world.