Pancho Kohner, the independent producer, has created a film to remain on the walls of the soul.
Victoria, made in Norway, captures the perfect tone, the aura and vision of two children in love. The movie takes off easy as Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night. He could take out your heart, introduce it to love, and leave you drenched with sorrow.
The opening image shows Victoria (Iben M. Akerlie), sunlit and innocent, being carried through a tall forest by Johannes (Jakob Oftebro), an intense agile boy with strong shoulders. Whatever we've been thinking about, we are now in this woodland. The sound, the light of Victoria, threw me back to storytelling times when I'd be with my best friend, Jack Nethercutt, on a damp lawn, looking for four leaf clovers among the roots of the olive tree.
You know when you meet Johannes and Victoria in the bliss of this sequence, the merry mix of light, love and landscape, that they will love each other this much, forever. And, in the way of long true love, they do.
Johannes has the high narrow piercing eyes of Northern Europeans (some of the Mankiewicz family had said eyes). These eyes fix on you - ice blue rays radiating into your brain. There has never been a more brooding well-defined Romeo, a peachier Juliet. What class-conscious parent, stuck in elite tradition, would not pull away its daughter from Johannes, a miller's son, a confirmed poet destined to achieve and have his slinky assurance sabotaged.
I've seen Victoria twice now. When you get around to life's teatime, the easiest park to walk around is Memory. And Victoria brought me back to Brentwood, to the small village in West L.A. where I grew up, where some of us knew, at seven or eight, we were in love the moment we'd met at the Town and Country School. We'd watch each other draw or write. Pass secret notes under desks.
Love was a matter of glances, exchanging the small smile. Love was a connection, enhanced by a sudden 'hello' from behind a hydrangea bush, a leap from a magnolia tree, a toss of two dandelions onto your notebook, or a ride, behind your friend, on Traveler, the school horse.
We come to know Victoria and Johannes - first in forests and fields - then in a Norway society, very much, for me, like Brentwood, then. For other people, the location will be your garden - your park, your neighborhood hideout.
Victoria's world is set in a time when daughters might be cultivated as treasures to carry a family into another level of society, and the implications of financial security. Victoria has a sister (mad in her way as Gone Girl). No classy summer party has ever been so elegant, so much fun, as Victoria's betrothal event to a thoroughbred young military man of substantial resources. (She still loves Johannes, the boy in the woods, the son of a miller.) The party feels like your pool party in Malibu, the Hamptons, as you look for who you do love, try to avoid the ones you don't, and amid the festivity, there is always chilly calamity coming around the corner. Film is all about timing. Watch the expressions.
The director, Torun Lian, wrote the script. And you guess, when you see it, that the tender, maybe on the brink of destruction, Jakob Oftebro is playing the poet who will create his own bleak legend - as poets do. It's an edge of seat - stay in theatre - talk about it - movie.
The Art Direction created by Louise Drake af Hagelsrum gives each image its own glory. You enter the houses, the lives, meet the people you'll come to know, as at a party where you're invited by new friends. The language is Norwegian - there are words on screen, but after a while the action is clear as a ballet, a story told by action, by light. The expressions and responses are direct and arresting.
Victoria also resonated with me because I'd just been to my grandson's wedding to the girl he'd fallen in love with when they first saw each other in high school. They grew together, split, explored their own worlds, came back together and married in the serene world of the Japanese Gardens in Phoenix.
There is an integrity to young love which we lose later as we begin to list what matches, and worry about what doesn't - A very excellent thing about aging is the perspective it can give us on love, on art, and custom. If we can step outside, away from tradition, and look at reality, we see we don't always remain who we were. I remembered a lot about love from watching Victoria. How much I learned, hit me at my grandson's wedding.
Like the impact of the betrothal party in Victoria, perspective has no place at weddings. Leave it at home in the journal. With the pearls. For family, a young wedding should be an exercise in self restraint. We bring gifts, but also our own memories which add shadows. Not useful in the full sunshine of marriage. You want your wedding to be about you. Not anyone else. Your pledge is only to each other. My grandson worked that out with his bride. They invented their own tradition, simple, brief and serene. When they scattered rose petals, laughing, looking at each other, I was back in the forest with Victoria and Johannes, and even in Phoenix I could smell real lawn, dense with clover, like the fields not yet built up in Brentwood. In those days Brentwood felt like New England, or Scandinavia, to European performers, musicians (many of them refugees from what would become World War II), and East Coast theatre families. We'd run through woods, fields of orange poppies, and alfalfa, play pirates in other people's pools and Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn's son Sean or Jane and Peter Fonda. Tarquin Olivier and Warner Leroy put on puppet shows with marionettes; we sat on patios, untangling the strings, retying them to the wooden controls we'd hold, moving them, like airplanes made of Good Humor bar sticks. We played coyotes living in ivy covered caverns on Marlboro Street hillsides, and knew a four leaf clover was somewhere out there.
You get beyond first love, laugh back at it, cry because the playground is gone now. And so's the school horse Sue Sally Jones rode in the May Dance we put on every year at the Town and Country School.
There are a lot of movies about all sorts of love now - things and people we love to hate so much we want to dive into a bed of hay with them. Or fly off on their rockets.
Victoria is fresh as the daring charm of its background the glowing intensity of the performances and the particular transformations. Love ignited by innocence has no happy ending except the music rises at the end of the wedding and someone in the audience believes they'll live happily ever after. Really?