After what seemed like a terrible calamity, the 13th edition of the Chennai International Film Festival -- true to the number -- almost did not happen. The terrifying floods in the city in the first week of December that marooned many localities and led to huge losses in life and property messed up not only Chennai’s most celebrated season of Carnatic music, but also came in the way of the festival arrangements. But it has now got back on its feet, and the festival will begin its eight-day run on January 6 with a Berlin clincher, Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria.
Winning the Silver Bear for Cinematography, Victoria is a sheer technological marvel. Shot over two hours in a fascinating single take, the movie is much more than a mere gimmick.
The German film begins with the titular heroine (essayed by the enormously talented Laia Costa) dancing in a Berlin night-club to the beat of ear-shattering music. And as Victoria leaves the club in the early hours of the morning -- when it is still dark -- she meets a group of young men, who desperately try to woo her. The handsomest of them, Sonne (Frederick Lau), gets the nod from Victoria, and as the entire group enters a parking lot, they are accosted by gangsters. The men owe the hoodlums money, and which the men are forced to repay by robbing a bank. And unwisely, Victoria agrees to be the driver of their car -- and the film takes off into high gear, till the sorrowful end.
Shot continuously for over two hours in as many as 22 locations from about 4.30 in the morning, Victoria has lot that has been improvised from a skeleton of a script, and the cast experiments with lovely abandon.
Despite strong performances, particularly by Costa, it is in the end Schipper’s single-take concept which he and his team pulled off with remarkable finesse that makes Victoria such a great watch.
The festival has on its schedule 184 films from 57 countries. A highlight will be the competition for Tamil movies. There will be 12 of them.