‘Victoria’ tells the story of a young woman who befriends a group of men after a night of partying in Berlin, only to get very close with one of them and then eventually join them in a wild escapade that will likely change the course of her life — all of this over the course of two hours and twenty minutes, all shot in one take.
The film’s one-shot take experiment rings similar to Alexander Sokurov’s ‘Russian Ark’ where he filmed a 96-minute Steadicam sequence shot. Here, while the rules for editing and lighting clearly are different, the whole one-shot take idea quickly leaves your mind after a while. Instead, it’s the characters and their natural conversations that easily garner your attention. Sebastian Schipper does a great job (if he was present during all of the scenes). The film takes its time getting to the advertised suspense, but without the character development, the film would practically fall flat on its face.
The film is never pigeon-holed into being “one-thing”. It’s bold and fierce and often sprawls in unexpected directions, all the while it beautifully maintains its stunning one-shot sequence, allowing us to experience every single moment over this 2 hour + period. Is all of it necessary? Maybe not, some scenes seem a little stretched, but hey, it’s part of the experience. From what I believe, the original screenplay was only about 12 pages long, meaning that the vast majority of dialogue is improvised. This is evident during various of points of the film, but it’s easy to forgive any falsities. The cast (especially Costa and Lau) do an excellent job of maintaining an intense sense of realism, which may occasionally fall slack, but thankfully with Schipper’s tight direction, it’s not very often.
Premiering at the 66th Berlin Film Festival, cinematographer Sturla Grovlen won the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for Cinematography. It’s no surprise as to why, the cinematography is daring and audacious and wildly contributes towards constructing a naturalistic atmosphere. It’s a stunning achievement, and the film as whole is not perfect, but it knows that. It happily unfolds itself as a genre transcending piece of cinema that often has unexpected moments of dark beauty hiding up its sleeve.
The only flaw of the movie is the first part, when the four robbers-to-be meet Victoria and fool around in the streets of Berlin. This part of the movie is rather boring and takes too long: I started wondering where the story was going. Some of the viewers in the movie theatre walked out during this part, and I myself also started getting annoyed. But once things get going, you’re in for an extremely exciting ride.
Victoria gets a 7.8/10.