24 Lies a Second: One Long Night

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One Long Night

Certain long-running TV shows, when a special occasion looms and they feel the need to do something distinctive, occasionally revert to an ancient form and indulge themselves by doing a 'live episode' – that is, one broadcast as it is performed – a conceit, of course, denied to movies by their very nature, which means that directors seeking to perform the same sort of stunt are obliged instead to indulge themselves in odd variants of form such as the 'one shot movie', this being one where the action takes the form of a single continuous take, whether genuine or (more often) falsified, and the latest example of this sort of thing is Sebastian Schipper's film Victoria, which has arrived trailing critical acclaim, much of which strikes me as being entirely deserved, inasmuch as the film manages to combine technical virtuosity with a genuinely engaging story, which concerns a young Spanish girl named Victoria (played by Laia Costa), recently arrived in Berlin, who at the end of a long night out finds herself falling with a group of slightly iffy young men, one of whom (Frederick Lau) she makes a certain connection with, only to discover that he has questionable obligations of a rather worrying kind, which she finds herself compelled to assist him with, finding herself rapidly out of her depth and mixing with very serious underworld figures, with the result that the movie starts out looking almost like an update of Before Sunrise before turning into another entry to the heist-gone-wrong genre, the director's underlying theme seemingly being the almost imperceptible way in which a person can slide into increasingly serious forms of criminality, although the nature of the movie means that this is telescoped to a rather absurd degree – not many people go from a little mild shoplifting to being involved in gun battles with the police and kidnapping in the space of two hours, after all – but I suppose the odd formal nature of this film to some extent excuses the peculiarities of the narrative (heavens above, this is difficult, how on Earth Bohumil Hrabal managed it I've no idea), the performances also being strong overall, particularly that of Costa, who is after all on screen virtually non-stop for over two hours (the film was apparently completed at only the third attempt), although this should not overshadow the remarkable achievement of the director in managing to keep the narrative convincing and involving and not especially contrived, constantly varying location, composition and other factors in order to prevent audience fatigue – the occasional striking eruptions into the film of non-diegetic music arguably serve a similar purpose – and indeed to some extent one almost forgets the 'stunt' nature of proceedings, naturally assuming one must have missed a sneaky edit at some point, and letting oneself get pulled along by the story, the question with this kind of film always being that of whether the story would be worth watching were the experimental manner of its telling not there to lend it interest, and the answer in this case being, I would suggest, 'yes', for the film manages to combine moments of warmth and character and well-observed atmosphere as well as its more generic, action-oriented elements, all choreographed with impressive skill and no obvious signs of cheating, the end result being something genuinely distinctive and engaging on a number of levels beyond simply that of novelty – one can't help but be sincerely impressed by Schipper's ambition and achievement, although being inspired to similar feats of untrammelled ceaseless exuberance in other media would almost certainly be a bad idea, and probably best avoided. But you can't have everything.

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