Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Victoria (4 Stars)
What's this obsession with flashing lights? When I bought my ticket to see "Victoria" at the box office of the Mac cinema the lady warned me that the film has flashing lights. Okay. When I showed my ticket to walk in the lady checking the tickets warned me that the film has flashing lights. I told her that I'd already been told about the flashing lights, to which she replied that she had to tell me again. Then I sat down to watch the film. And up pops a big warning on the screen: "The following film has flashing lights". Talk about overkill!
The film began, and there they were. Flashing lights from the first seconds. It was a scene in a Berlin rave club. Was I supposed to run out of the cinema screaming?
The film is about Victoria, a young Spanish woman who works in a cafe in Berlin. She's only been there three months and she doesn't speak German yet. That's pretty silly, in my opinion. I know there is mass unemployment in Spain, more than anywhere else in Europe, but why has she gone to live in a country where she can't speak the language? In fact, why does anyone want to employ her? If I owned a cafe in Germany I wouldn't want a waitress who can't speak the language.
When Victoria leaves the club she meets four young men, with the enigmatic names Sonne, Blinker, Fuss and Boxer. They're proud that they're real Berliners who have lived in Berlin all their lives. They're even proud to be from East Berlin, although judging by their appearance they must have been born after reunification. East Berlin has been better integrated into Germany than the rest of East Germany, so it doesn't have the Ossi feeling about it that the rest of the eastern territories have. That's very obvious if you visit Berlin as a tourist. As soon as you leave Berlin in any direction, the poverty starts on the other side of the city limits. It's sad but true.
Victoria mistrusts the men at first, but she finds their carefree attitude exciting, so she tags along with them. She begins to feel attracted to Sonne. She can communicate with them by speaking English, but when they're talking among themselves she doesn't know what's happening. She gets involved in a criminal activity. Boxer owes a gangster 10,000 Euros, so they rob a bank to get the money, with Victoria driving the car.
The story is good, and despite what other reviewers have written I find it plausible. It might seem like a fantasy tale to middle-class film reviewers sitting in their armchairs in England sipping tea, but I know Berlin. It's another world. It's an exciting world. It's probably the most exciting city in Europe. Adventures happen every night. I've walked the streets of Berlin at three in the morning. It's a city that never sleeps.
The whole gimmick of the film is its cinematography, which is emphasised in the film poster shown above. One take. It's a single camera shot, in real time, for the whole two hours of the film. The camera follows Victoria out of the club, in and out of cars and buildings, in lifts, up stairs onto a roof. The cameraman must have had a strong, steady hand to manage that feat. While it's an impressive achievement, it doesn't make the story better. It's a powerful tale in itself. I would have enjoyed it even if it hadn't been shot in one take.