For every hurdle overcome by the protagonist of this film, I imagine the hurdles the agency and production team overcame to get this work out the door. Every element is considered and likely fought over.
Take the opening scene—a girl leaves a businesscard holder in the back of a taxi. Surely there was a discussion that went something along the lines of: "Our target uses technology to connect with peers—surely she should leave behind a smartphone?" But just as surely that would make a rubbish film.
The casting is really good. The people aren’t just people, they’re characters. From the S&M shave girls, to the one-handed piano man, to the bodacious African ladies in the street, no one is boring. Director Traktor’s imagination must be a weird place. Who did they leave out? The homo-erotic contortionists? No, those guys are in it, too. [Isn't that just a yoga class? -Ed.]
In big productions, it’s the little things you notice. Things like the clever design of each business card are what make this film. When you go to the effort of watching a spot over and over (as many people will do with this one), details are the reward, because the viewer gets to appreciate something new every time.
Then there’s the racehorse scene. Thousands of cheering fans wholly capture the idea that Heineken is the beer for a good time. Which is a feeling I can verify, since I once took a punt on a horse at the same track in Hong Kong just because I recognised a South African jockey. Luckily he won. (Thanks, Basil Coetzee, wherever you are.)
Beer ads, especially global ones, come with all sorts of rules of their own. No dialogue and no actual drinking. Both issues are cleverly skirted, as the beer slides in and out of the scenes as seamlessly as the protagonist – no shoehorn required. And you don’t need chit-chat when you’ve got Papa Bokango, the tailor who is shown grinning, left wearing his shorts, after selling the electric-blue suit off his back.
What I like most about ‘The City’ is that it proves that great filmmaking is a worthy investment, because it rewards the audience with real entertainment. And, of course, Elvis.
It is the kind of ad that makes me wish I was drinking a beer, rather than the flat white on my desk right now. Although to be honest, I’d prefer a Kronenbourg.