Directed by Sebastian Schipper.
Starring Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, and Max Mauff.
A young Spanish woman who has newly moved to Berlin finds her flirtation with a local guy turn potentially deadly as their night out with his friends reveals a dangerous secret.
Victoria may be a 138 minute film shot in one take, but it is more than gimmick filmmaking, as even if it was composed with traditional cuts and camera angle swaps, it would still be a hypnotic, tense, tragic love story. The decision to shoot the film as one unbroken sequence simply elevates the drama, paving the way for a film that allows its audience to become intimate with the characters in the most immersive way possible. Actually filmed with its Director of Photography Sturla Brandth Grovlen recording the events on-foot with a digital camera, you often feel like the fifth person in the group, watching the ups and downs of this journey through the middle of the night in Berlin unfold.
It’s astounding that a movie that is literally one scene following a group of characters can be broken up into acts, which is not only accomplished here, but the steady transition from the titular Victoria (a young Spanish woman now living in Germany, who is lost in life with no friends and seemingly hits up nightclubs in her free time) getting to know the lovable hoodlums she comes across (more specifically, Sonne, the leader of the self-professed brothers who is both alpha yet also a tender soul), to a bank robbery heist flick that quickly spirals out into chaos, works superbly.
The only moments you have to catch your breath and pray for the safety of the unlikely robbers are during brief, quiet car rides where often no one says anything. These windows into facial expressions are also beautiful, as each actor elicits strong body language showcasing their wildly different state of mind, while never breaking the illusion of their long-time, very personal friendship.
Although these characters are acting out a bank robbery, it’s against their will and is one member of the group repaying a debt to a former inmate in jail that offered protection. It’s never made clear exactly what this person did, but he convincingly tells us that it was a mistake and that deep down he is a good person, lessening the concern and specifics of the crime he committed because we actually believe him.
Victoria herself getting involved with the crime seems like a laughably unbelievable idea on paper, but the first 45 minutes carefully creates a relationship between her and Sonne. At times you will wish the pacing of the film was sped up, but when you reach the more thrilling elements of the overall package, those moments pay off. As a matter of fact, you will love the rushed romance that plays out so much, that when danger is striking from every corner you’ll be wishing for those moments back solely in hopes that these lovebirds will be safe.
Furthermore, there are so many areas (especially deep in the film) where something could have went wrong and blew the whole trajectory of the narrative off course, whether they were 10 minutes in or 100 minutes in, meaning that it’s back to the beginning. So it also must be applauded that there are very few mistakes in the final product, with the only notable screw-up being a wrong turn taken at one point in a car, causing everyone to freak out on camera for real. Also, not all of the performers involved are 100% fluent in speaking English, but in a way that also heightens the rawness of the tone.
I swear, every time the cameraman steps into any sort of tight area with glass around, you’re waiting to accidentally see his reflection in the mirror throwing everything off, but it never happens. As previously mentioned, it just feels as if you are the one following these people around. Unfortunately, this does result in a lot of shaky camera work, but it’s nowhere near bothersome thanks to how effortlessly the cinematography flows and elevates the narrative. 138 minutes arguably might have been too much, but what is there to cut, or how do you shorten the narratives without damaging all of the extended, off-the-cuff character interactions where all the actors contain riveting chemistry with one another?
Don’t let the incredibly ballsy yet excellently executed one take angle be the only reason you check out Victoria though, do so because it’s both heartwarming and relentlessly intense. It’s also a fairly interesting way of reminding people of how quickly the course of their life can be drastically altered within mere hours and one decision.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook