MVFF: Victoria (A)

This is the fourth film adaptation of Knut Hamsun‘s 1898 Norwegian novel, Victoria. The story is familiar: boy and girl from opposite sides of the tracks since childhood just can’t seem to overcome the social differences keeping them apart in young adulthood. But don’t let this seeming predictability keep you away. This is an excellent film — one of the best I’ve seen this year. (In Norwegian with English subtitles.)

If you have any interest in photography or cinematography, you must see this movie. It’s one of those rare films in which every single shot is a masterful image. The cinematography and lighting by veteran Director of Photography Harald Gunnar Paalgard is truly extraordinary.  I swear, I would hang an enlargement of nearly any frame from this movie on my wall. There’s actually not all that much dialogue in Victoria, which gives you the opportunity to relish the sumptuous visuals. [For camera geeks: Victoria was shot using a Red camera (not sure which one) in DCP 2k format, and it looks terrific on a huge screen.]

Victoria is excellent by virtually every measure. Direction by Torun Lian is first rate. The cast, particularly the two leads, Jakob Oftebro and Iben M. Akerlie, are perfect, although Oftebro kept reminding both my wife and me of a young, non-muscular (ie, good looking) Arnold Schwarzenegger.

We had the pleasure of a Q&A session at the Mill Valley Film Festival with producer Pancho Kohner, who earned his way through the Hollywood scene producing some of the Charles Bronson Death Wish movies. The movie rights to Victoria have been in and out of his family for decades. This is a film he and his father before him wanted to make for more than 60 years. Clearly his labor of love, and he’s justifiably proud of it.

Unfortunately, for what are probably political reasons within the Norwegian film industry, Victoria will not be Norway’s submission as Best Foreign Film to the American Academy Awards for 2013. It certainly would have been a terrific contender. According to producer Kohner, the film should have a limited release in the U.S. within six months. Track it down and see it.

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