Victoria is a German crime thriller, directed by Sebastian Schipper and starring Laia Costa as the title character. It's released in UK cinemas this Friday and you can find a screening near you here.
Victoria is a young Spanish woman who has recently moved to Berlin and has yet to assimilate. Whilst out clubbing one night she bumps into four Berlin natives and before she knows it has gotten herself mixed up in an impromptu bank robbery. The real draw of the film, however, is that it was all shot in one continuous take. No edits, no camera trickery, no CGI.
This is an incredible achievement in of itself as the film also plays out in real-time and is spread across a wide section of Berlin's city centre. The sheer amount of logistical planning necessary to make this a possibility is mind-boggling. According to Schipper it took three full attempts to get it right and there a few noticeable moments where the panic or embarrassment of the characters getting something wrong is clearly real.
Considering this the cinematography is fantastic and not merely because getting the lighting right for over two hours straight, covering interiors and exteriors is insane. But also because the film looks great - street scenes all have a gritty, dark feel to them and the club scenes are vibrant and woozy with deep blues and strobe effects.
Clearly with a project such as this you're going to need performers that you can trust to hit their marks and improvise where needed and the main cast of five do a wonderful job. Franz Rogowski plays Boxer with irredeemable abandon but gives him a sliver of self-awareness and Frederick Lau gives Sonne just enough sweetness to undercut his deceptive and immature nature but it's Laia Costa who really steals the show. There's barely a frame of this film that's she's not in and she does a great job of handling Victoria's tonal shifts, delivering some truly moving and emotional scenes.
I really enjoyed the use of music in the film which was provided by the wonderful Nils Frahm and DJ Koze. The former provides melodic piano interludes throughout the film and the latter takes care of the club scenes and the way these are edited together was brilliant. The director also does a great job at building a sense of suspense and as the stakes get higher (and the morals get lower) for our characters the film becomes extremely intense and even stressful. It takes a lot to provoke these emotions in a viewer and I applaud the film-makers for reaching these emotional heights.
There are a number of standout scenes here (Victoria's explanation of her failed career dreams, the Hitchcock-ian heist, the crazed shoot-out and both the club scenes) but in terms of the film's core narrative we've seen it all before. It's a simple story of a bank robbery gone wrong with little of much importance to say. I also found the characters hard to watch as for the most-part I found them to be nasty, annoying and dumb. Victoria was especially difficult to get onboard with as her decisions and motivations, although hinted at, never really made enough sense to me.
And now we get onto the issue of the one-shot-film. On the one hand it's the film's best selling point but on the other hand it hinders the believability and tone of the film. Right from the off an unbroken shot creates suspense – whether the film-makers want it to or not. This creates confusion and unnecessary tension in the viewer where it's not needed. However the main drawback of this technical approach is on a character level - it makes Victoria's moral decent harder to take seriously as it all happens way too fast. The film is also way too long. Because it's told in real-time we have to watch our characters go from A to B and at two hours and twenty minutes long it definitely dragged at points.
Regardless of these negatives Victoria is an eye-pleasing, technical triumph and is often a tense, thrilling ride. I'm going to give it a 6/10 and would recommend it to fans of Run, Lola, Run, Birdman, Pusher and La Haine.
Have you seen Victoria and If so did you like it? Did you hate it? Why? As usual let me know in the comments below and be sure to subscribe for more reviewing coming soon.