At a certain point I think we’ll be forced to say that our cups spilleth over with regards to acidic class satires from Austria or thereabouts—Michael Haneke, what hath thou wrought? But for now Daniel Hoesl and Julia Niemann’s pitch-black parody of the haves Veni Vedi Vici, which just premiered at Sundance, proves there’s still some righteous fury left in that particular tank. It comes, it saws, and it conquers. Taking aim at the way our society is structured to forever benefit the rich, the movie punches several nasty blows into our collective sense of impotency—if the first step is recognizing the problem, then here’s to hoping that Veni Vidi Vici’s provocations will help some folks do just that. We dare to dream anyway, lest we sink permanently unto oblivion.
Reminiscent of the way Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest straps us into the boots of the Nazis as they dutifully ignore those death-camps churning five steps away, Veni Vidi Vici plants us right inside the elite world of the Maynards, a garbage monster family of the uber privileged led by sociopathic papa Amon (Laurence Rupp), who swims and struts and slaughters with the curly-haired confidence of a man who’s never been seriously questioned a second of his life.
Like all of the worst people who make all of the most money, Amon does some sort of vague financial scheming during his day-gig—as he admits in a speech he gives while winning an award for his poisonous behavior (“The ring of disruption” it’s called, and it is indeed a ring with a broken black stone at its center) he doesn’t create anything; he is just good at seeing what might happen. And then making it happen. (Which came first is the riddle we all die by.) Really Amon just seems like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, the one before Julia Roberts boffs him into having a conscience.
And doubling down on that lack of conscience is Amon’s side-gig, his lil’ hobby you might call it, which is terrorizing the general populace by randomly shooting people dead with a sniper rifle a couple of times a week. This is no spoiler—it’s how the film opens, with him murdering a cyclist mid-race in order to swap himself in and finish the course triumphant.
So no, subtle it ain’t. I mean, it kicks off with an Ayn Rand quote. And if the face-smashing obviousness of recent similarly-themed movies like Triangle of Sadness or The Menu didn’t cut it for you then you’ll probably similarly scoff at this one as well—but as a fan of those films and of this one I’m of the mind that sometimes you need to cut through the metaphors and really go for it, and shitting on the rich is very much one of those times.
Every member of Amon’s khaki-clad clan is awful in some sort of way—even the two adorable adopted little girls who spend their days in endless play seem somehow sinister in their shrill gaiety. But the scariest by far is his smirking-eyed teen daughter Paula (Olivia Goschler), who narrates much of the film with Patrick-Bateman-like disassociation while champing at the bit to fill daddy’s expensive shoes. She spends her afternoons listening to pop songs while lounging across her mother’s grave or in their mansion caressing the barrels of the guns mounted on the walls of what I suppose must be called “the gun room”—a gleaming poster child for casual nepo-baby entitlement, her only amusement seems to be in the announcing of her indifference to the rules that govern the rest of society.
So as Amon remains the broken black stone at the film’s center, Veni Vidi Vici reveals itself to be even more Paula’s disturbed coming-of-age film than it is anything else. And Hoesl and Niemann gaze upon the next generation of trust-funders with genuine, earned terror. As her father descends into his last act of-American-Psycho-esque desperation, outright pleading with the powers that don’t to prove him wrong, Paula never hints at an ounce of such concerns. She taunts our outrage, lightly amused, calling us “cream puffs” as her itchy trigger finger gets scratched and then some.
Bleak but mordantly funny, beautifully lensed as clean as crisp white sheets, it’s surely true that Veni Vidi Vici might be speaking to the choir with its doom-laden proclamations about our late-stage-capitalism crumbling. But it’s a choir, I say, that needs all the voices it can get. All the three-times underlined in red marker; all the cymbal crashes and megaphones and kicking down of bolted doors. Keep ‘em coming. Anything that would make a billionaire feel really shitty about themselves is ace in my book.