Starring Willem Dafoe (SPIDER-MAN, SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE) and Sam Neill (JURASSIC PARK, THE HORSE WHISPERER), VICTORY is an intense story of a man accused of murder and his struggle to keep himself and the woman he loves a... more »live! In a remote Dutch East Indies seaport, Axel Heyst (Dafoe) lives in a prominent hotel. An all-woman orchestra plays in the hotel each night and the orchestra owner agrees to "sell" one of the girls, Alma (Irene Jacob -- U.S. MARSHALS), to the sinister owner of the hotel. When Alma begs Heyst to save her from a life of prostitution, they escape to a tropical island ... but not before Heyst is accused of murder! Also starring Rufus Sewell (A KNIGHT'S TALE) -- the suspense intensifies as the hotel owner points a bloodthirsty gang of bandits to the island, telling them their lost fortune lies hidden there!« less
"Victory (the novel) is hardly one of Conrad's masterpieces, and is his most melodramatic piece of fiction. These melodramatic elements lend themselves very well, however, when it comes to translating Conrad to film (which hasn't been done very well to this stage, apart from Coppola's loose adaptation of Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now). Director Mark Peploe, a sometime collaborator with Bernardo Bertolluci, has fashioned a script that comes close to the spirit of Conrad's novel. The changes that have been made have to do with the book's ending, yet they don't hinder the artistic flow of the film in any manner.
The story is a classic good vs. evil allegory, with Heyst (Willem Dafoe) representing a fallen Adam trying to make his way back to paradise. Just for reinforcement of the concept, Heyst's father stares down in glaring disapproval from a painting Heyst has had delivered from his old digs in San Francisco. He's now living in a paradisical setting (the Javanese vistas the camera captures are beautiful indeed), yet is living in isolation. His loneliness is cured when he rescues a young, French violinist playing in a travelling all-female orchestra which is performing at Herr Schomberg's hotel. Schomberg, who hates Heyst, is in the process of purchasing Lena (who we learn is actually named Alma) from San Giacimo, the oily impresario who conducts the orchestra and who, along with his iron-fisted wife, has absolute control over the female orchestra members. After Heyst has rescued Alma and hidden her away on his island retreat, Schomberg receives a trio of unwelcome guests at his hotel. These are the Satanic duo of the mysterious Mr. Jones and his "secretary," Ricardo. A swarthy henchman named Pedro also acts a criminal aide-de-camp to Ricardo. In order to get rid of the trio and to exact his revenge on Heyst, Schomberg tells them that Heyst has swindled a former partner and had him killed, and that he then cashed in a huge insurance policy, the proceeds of which Heyst has secreted away somewhere on his island. In the meantime, Heyst, who had been a reluctant benfactor at first, has fallen in love with Alma, who appears to have fallen for him as well. Suddenly, the trio appear at Heyst's dock in an open boat, and they look to have suffered from water deprivation and exposure. Heyst is suspicious of them from the outset, but acts the samaritan and gives them food, drink and shelter. Plot description beyond this stage would involve spoilers. This movie is extremely well directed and well cast. Dafoe fits the bill for the Conradian westerner isolating himself in the far east. Sam Neil captures the "please allow me to introduce myself" quality of Jones and Sewell is a perfect Ricardo. Irene Jacob, who slept-walked like Lady Macbeth in her role of Desdemona in the 1995 Othello, is a convincing Alma. Ho Yi, Simon Callow, and Jean Yanne as Schomberg round out an excellent ensemble. Yet the major credit goes to Peploe for an intelligent script and assured direction. It's not easy adapting psychological novelists to the screen, which is why there are so few efforts at it. Nostromo, Conrad's masterpiece, for instance, reads almost like cinema, yet it hasn't been atttempted in a screen version, save for a rather weak BBC television adaptation. The Peter O'Toole Lord Jim was nothing like the novel. This neglected version of Victory may not be perfect, but it's as close as a filmmaker has come thus far.BEK"
Tell Tale Heart
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 09/27/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Axel Heyst (here played by Dafoe), like many of Conrad's outcasts, is a wounded creature who has beaten a retreat from the mainstream of life. But even in the far-flung colonies, the imperial heart of darkness still beats.
Written in 1913, Victory went to press just as WWI erupted and so Conrad considered changing the title of the book so as not to mislead readers into thinking this was a war novel. But he opted to keep the title anyway. The title "victory" refers to the protagonist's victory not so much over historical circumstance (which can never be transcended) but despite the crushing effects of historical circumstances. Arguably, its not much of a victory at all. Its not a happy book by any stretch of the imagination, its a deeply philosophical book about man's alienation from himself. The dense impenetrable tropic setting, as always in Conrad, serves as a symbol of man's dark impenetrable heart. In this book that heart is especially dark and the densely philosophical prose damn near impenetrable.
Although Victory is considered to be the best of Conrad's late period, the achievements of his late period, interesting though they may be, are nowhere near as rich as those "victories" of his middle period ("Nigger of Narcissus," "Heart of Darkness," Lord Jim, Nostromo). No matter how you approach it, Victory is an awkward novel. What makes it a particularly difficult read is that Conrad does not fully explain what shaped his main character until very late in the book which means that for much of the book Heyst is simply an angst-ridden enigma to us and to himself. The film is, for the most part, faithful to the book and so the film has the same strengths and weaknesses as the book. In Conrad existential brooding and inaction is usually tempered by (and momentarily assuaged by) moments of intense action. But the action all comes pretty late in Victory. Love is supposed to be a kind of clarifying force as well as a salvation from self, but this theme is weakened by Conrad's inability to create a female character. In Lord Jim the female that won the protaganist's heart was an island girl and freedom fighter, but since so much was going on the fact that she rarely spoke did not really seem to matter. Here, the love interest (Irene Jacob) is a European but since so little is going on for most of the novel, the weakness of this character is readily apparent. But whats strong here is very strong. Peploe captures the novel's brooding beauty and the villains (Sam Neill & Rufus Sewell) are top-notch. Arguably, most viewers will feel that too little happens too late, but for Conrad fans and fans of island and/or colonial narratives this is well worth your time. "
Too smart for American audiences?
C. A. Scott | Springfield, OR United States | 02/08/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Conrad is difficult. Conrad is difficult? Who are we kidding? Exotic locales, action, angst, and history, what's not to like? This may be the most accessible Conrad story for a movie-length treatment. A stronger female character than he's usually known for... a more straight-forward plotline that resolves more quickly... and a message. Ah, now, the message is the trouble isn't it? The explanation of how the title applies is a bit too philosophical for American audiences, I'm sure. And yet people sat through drivel like the Bridges of Madison County in droves? I don't get it.Casting. Rufus Sewell is the shining star -- and he's not even on the cover of the box. As is so often the case with his supporting performances, he injects a level of energy into this film that should have come from its stars. Sam Neill can be forgiven; he's playing an opium addict aristo. But Dafoe is so understated he seems to be sleepwalking at times. He should have watched Peter O'Toole in "Lord Jim" before playing this part. (And yet, the tiredness of his character and others makes you feel the oppressive heat and barbaric surroundings they live in, so it is not altogether uncalled-for.)As someone else said, Sam and Rufus are the best part of the film, wonderfully scummy and intensely watchable. Conrad is the next best (even adapted to film, the complexity of his stories shines through), and the setting follows. It's a great story that takes its time and rewards smart viewers, but this isn't the kind of movie you can watch with six people in the room blabbing at the same time. Pay attention, and you will find yourself transported to another time, another world, another way of thinking that could only come from the mind of someone who lived there. That is what makes Conrad great, and the people who made this movie wanted to be true to his themes even where they may not have been entirely true to the book. I think they did an admirable job."
"We are the world, Mr Heyst, come to pay you a visit."
Ryuukei | Edinburgh, Scotland, UK | 06/30/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love Joseph Conrad but the films never seem to work. "The Duellists" was too thin, "The Secret Agent" terrible. "Lord Jim"s the best of a bad bunch so far.
This doesn't up the score much, but it's an honest try. The locations are good and it has the feel of the time and place. Casting is arse over face, with pudgy Sam Neill as the novel's skeletal Mr Jones (hammy, mannered, ineffective) and Willem Dafoe as the novel's pudgy Heyst (very good indeed). Irene Jacob's a blank sheet, but at least she's better here than in "U.S. Marshalls." Best of the bunch is Rufus Sewell, who has Jones' 'private secretary' to perfection, and he's an actor I've no time for in anything else.
Biggest drawback is the narration. Bill Patterson may be great, but he barely keeps his trap shut for more than two minutes. He's always telling us back story, what Heyst thinks, what Schomberg thinks. It's as if Mark Peploe can't let go of the novel or as if the producers didn't think the audience would get it. Considering it sat on the shelf for years, probably the last.
The end is under effective because you never get any feel that the lovers bring each other to life. Dafoe does well, but Jacob is like Isabelle Adjani at her weakest here, doing too little. Good stuff along the way, and Neill does redeem himself with the great line "We are the world, Mr Heyst, come to pay you a visit." Now that's Conrad.
Modest Drama of the Exotic Far East
drkhimxz | Freehold, NJ, USA | 10/02/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a respectable adaptation of a Joseph Conrad tale which should provide a diverting experience for most.There is sufficient tension to drive your curiosity while there is a low-keyed romance to spice the relationship of the two lead characters. William Dafoe and Irène Jacob are good as a loveless recluse and the woman with no hope whom he saves from the fate worth than death. This lends to their affair a proper romantic tone. Poor Sam Neill is forced almost to buffoonery to make something out of a poorly conceived character. Overall, this is a film with ambitions that the creative staff never quite were able to realize. Nevertheless one can recommend it to those looking for a satisfactory though not memorable evening."