Victory (1981)

“Victory” (1981)



boring dance

This film mixes sports with ideology, meaning that the game (football in this case) stands for moral and human issues. The one who wins the game, proves the righteousness of his attitudes. Nazis against the allies, the Nazis cheat. Apart from some ambiguity in von Sydow’s character, there are no concessions to the evilness of the Nazis. They is no possibility for redemption among them, no worthy character. So, for the way it handles the public’s perspective of nazi Germany (not the top hierarchies but the others) this moves nothing forward when compared to, say, Casablanca. It’s a matter of pride winning over evilness, justice prevailing over cheating.

The film starts with the scheduling of a football game, and ends with that game, so the whole film is a preparation for it. The game is a staged event, it takes place in Paris so we can have the audience supporting the “right” side. In terms of drama, this has the same effect as if the event would have been a theatre performance, or a public speech (it’s as if the final allie victory in the game was the equivalent to Chaplin’s speech in Great Dictator). So why does this fail where both Casablanca and The Great Dictator worked? Well, simply because this is made in 1981, the war is long over, the Soviet regime was living its final true years, and the context is totally different. It no longer mattered to have desperate declarations of honour against a by than historical regime. I don’t think ww2 related films is a dead theme, we still get them today, renewed and fresh. But this is a straightforward simplistic approach that was only justifiable during the war, when the nazi horror was still being perpetrated. This one, where it stands and how it is shaped is as simplistic and ordinary as a propaganda film.

The film depicts football. I think football is as hard to film as dancing. But football has been less used, so we have (even) less interesting solutions to film it. The thing is, both dancing and football implied movement, the most graceful football players are themselves dancers, entangling the ball, the direct opponent, and the general situation in the field. To capture this movement interestingly you have to rely on a certain fluidity of the camera. It can be done two ways: -still framing, where the player’s movement has to be worth the shot (safe and boring option); -the camera plays with the player, and the other elements, and thus enters the “dance”. Frankly, i’ve never seen the second option done well. This film misses an incredible opportunity to try it. That’s because it casts one of the more graceful players ever. Someone who danced like no one before or since, not as fluid as Maradona (or Messi), but eventually more thrilling in the “one on one” moments. He does some nice tricks for the camera, but none is properly used by the camera, and they are lost in the general boredom of the film. I wish this would be properly done some day.

This would be only a minor disappointment, but the thing is this film was directed by someone who used to think about cinema, besides merely directing. Huston made important things. But than again, his insight was on the narrative side, in how the story is shaped, and how it is told. Also, it is reported that by the end of his career he was sometimes only a worker collecting the pay check. Pity.

My opinion: 2/5

This comment on IMDb


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