Dir Sebastian Schipper, with Laia Costa

Had I not been setting off for Berlin later today, I would not have bothered with this film last night. It didn’t sound like my kind of thing. However, it was brilliant in its way and I am glad I saw it. It’s a tour de force in that it’s filmed entirely in one shot. (Does that mean the actors and film crew rehearse as thoroughly as if it were a theatrical production of Shakespeare at the National?) You live through those two and a quarter hours till dawn in the characters’ company, with all the tedium (scrappy English, rather drunk, chaotic), excitement (the nearest I’ll get to being a cocaine-fuelled getaway driver) and fear (ditto) intact. I can see the point of Aristotelian unities now.

Our introduction to the character Victoria was masterly: we experience the thud of heartbeat music and the strobe light and we become part of her. Her lack of caution in gradually hooking up with four dodgy-looking Berliners (am I showing my age and snobbism here?) at first seemed part of a zest for life and then – after we learned that she had studied piano at a conservatory for many years – a yearning for other people outside that hothouse atmosphere of competitiveness and endless practising. The scene where she played the piano to Sonne was sublime: we weren’t expecting it any more than he was. It also “explained” her unwordliness and her single-mindedness in seeing through what she had begun. Sonne’s face as he listened to her playing  – emotions from amazement to admiration to yearning flitting across it – reminded me of the last scene in Phoenix, where Nelly’s husband finally realises that the woman singing is indeed his returned wife. That was a film with an implausible (but plausibly allegorical?) plot redeemed by great performances.

Also shades of Mother Holle (Mephisto waltz?): the helpful and sweet-natured girl who goes home with the gold! Victorious indeed.

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