It becomes apparent pretty early on that what on paper at least is an experimental piece of cinema, almost bordering on gimmickry, is in fact anything but.
Victoria is a truly astonishing piece of film making.
Much has and will be made of Director Sebastian Schipper’s audacious attempt to film an entire motion picture in one single take. That he proves such a feat to be logistically possible is to be roundly applauded, but the fact that he’s produced such a massively impressive film in its own right within such ‘constraints’, is down right incredible.
Of course this then presents the argument of whether such ‘constraints’ are indeed constraints at all, or whether they are in fact a bold approach to film making, producing a raw and gritty end product that no amount of clever edits could ever achieve?
Judge for yourselves…
Victoria (the extraordinary Laia Costa) is a sweet, young Spanish girl from Madrid, living and working in Berlin. She’s new in town and thus has no genuine friends to speak of. She’s also blissfully unaware that on leaving a nightclub, a chance encounter and flirtation with Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his gang of drunken Berlin rogues, will end up being the most memorable and genuinely life-changing encounter of her life.
What starts off as innocent fun and games, larking about with her new found German buddies, quickly morphs into something far more sinister when ex jailbird ‘Boxer’ (Franz Rogowski) receives a call in the early hours from his former protector and jail acquaintance, with a demand that he repays an outstanding debt.
Unable to decline, he calls upon his three friends to help him out, but with one of them paralytically drunk, Victoria steps in and volunteers to drive them all to their destination, unaware of the true implications of her selfless decision.
It’s a decision that will lead to grave regrets, but there’s really no turning back now…
All shot in one continuous take, one can only imagine the amount of preparation and logistical headaches that this project must have caused.
Perhaps such weight of expectation accounts for the film’s slightly reticent start with things a little slow to kick into gear if truth be told, but Victoria‘s a film which requires the viewer to bear with it and more importantly, to make an investment in the film’s concept. The rewards are manifold.
There’s a lingering, ever-present potential for distraction throughout due to the unavoidable sections of shaky camera work, sometimes drifting in and out of focus due to the demanding nature of constant, edit-less image capture on the move, not to mention the exacting low-light conditions of a Berlin night. The audio too suffers a little from time to time with muffled dialogue lacking a little clarity from those actors speaking from peripheral positions, but all in all, these are minor details in the grand scheme.
There is an over all level of accomplishment here which is genuinely extraordinary and must have taken gargantuan levels of coordination and concentration from all involved, not least a set of actors who pull off the impossible with impressive consistency throughout; Sebastian Schipper’s super-ambitious approach here exposes them completely for two hours of screen time, warts and all, with genuinely nowhere to hide. None of them are found wanting.
If ever there was a project that screamed ‘teamwork’ – this is it. Everything from an overworked camera crew, a director sweating buckets, to Nils Frahm’s excellent and sparingly applied soundtrack – it’s all mightily impressive on so many levels.
Thoroughly deserving of all of its plaudits, Victoria is a landmark film which achieves the improbable and in doing so, raises the bar of expectancy to lofty heights, producing one of the finest films of recent times in the process.