– Daniel Hoesl and Julia Niemann’s feature tells us that the super-rich sometimes have a whale of a time killing commoners like ants burnt under a magnifying glass

Review: Veni Vidi Vici

A rather straightforward logline for Daniel Hoesl and Julia Niemann’s feature Veni Vidi Vici [+see also:
interview: Daniel Hoesl, Julia Niemann
film profile
]
could probably be Alberto Sordi’s legendary line in Mario Monicelli’s The Marquis of Grillo. In the 1981 comedy, the popular Italian actor plays the leading role and, while sporting a condescending smile, arrogantly tells the populace: “I’m sorry, but I am who I am, and you’re nobody.”

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Last week, Veni Vidi Vici had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and is now playing in the Harbour strand of International Film Festival Rotterdam.

The core theme of Hoesl and Niemann’s picture imparts some very dated pearls of wisdom: super-rich people are spoilt and bored to death, but believe their power is limitless. The concept certainly doesn’t dazzle in its originality, especially if one takes a look at some very recent films – ranging from global hits like Triangle of Sadness [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ruben Östlund
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile
]
to more niche titles like The Quiet Maid [+see also:
film review
interview: Miguel Faus
film profile
]
.

In Veni Vidi Vici, the directorial duo doesn’t put any effort into concealing their intentions. In fact, the film is split into the three titular chapters and opens with the senseless murder of an incautious cyclist, who gets shot by a sniper, a billionaire called Amon Maynard (a wonderfully hateful Laurence Rupp). The super-rich, passionate hunter kills passersby or random victims for fun, but doesn’t dare to shoot animals, while seemingly acting as a caring father, engaging in somewhat shady business activities and letting his daughter Paula (Olivia Goschlher) familiarise herself with rifles and bullets. The girl’s bored voice-over is also interspersed throughout the picture.

Meanwhile, her stepmother Viktoria (Ursina Lardi) plays the role of a woman whose main task seems only to be expanding Maynard’s dynasty through natural or surrogate procreation. It’s a very primitive – almost tribal – instinct, which sits well with Maynard’s more or less straightforward attempts to challenge the system and make fun of its fallacies. Narratively speaking, the latter focus isn’t anything new either, as it echoes the perverse “catch me if you can” mechanism present in many serial killers’ psyche as well as the plot of classics like Elio Petri’s 1970 Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.

We soon come to realise that Maynard is basically impossible to arrest, so he is free to continue to his spree in plain sight. When an eyewitness, an old gamekeeper called Alois Sepperer (Haymon Maria Buttinger), visits the police station, nobody believes him, and he’s literally kicked out by the officers.

On the whole, Hoesl and Niemann’s effort makes wide use of some well-oiled tropes and hyperbolic plot devices. The score is probably the most interesting feature on offer: it’s made up of bizarre, “yelled”, abstract vocals, short drum patterns and sporadic vocal crescendos in addition to well-known classical pieces such as Maurice Ravel’s Boléro and Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube waltz.

Ultimately, the satirical and allegorical aims of this film are achieved, and the closing sequence is hard-hitting enough. The subplot related to Volker Carlotta (Dominik Warta), a journalist who wishes to uncover Maynard’s crimes, is perhaps a bit too rushed but compelling enough to be part of this tale revolving around a merciless killing game.

Veni Vidi Vici was produced by Austrian outfit Seidl Film Produktion. US-based outfit Magnify is in charge of its international sales.

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