Victoria, directed by Sebastian Schipper, is an absolute achievement in filmmaking. The film is done in one continuous shot, which results in you being eased into the world of the film, and then slowly having it build to the intensive experience that it becomes. You’re along for the whole ride, and this means that when it’s all said and done, you’re more than overwhelmed by all that the film offers. I’m excited to get this review underway, as there is some good stuff to talk about.
The story in ‘Victoria’, and this may surprise you, follows a girl named Victoria – played by Laia Costa – who has recently arrived in Berlin, and after a night at a club, ends up flirting and then tagging along with Sonne – played by Frederick Lau – and his group of friends. What starts off as an innocent and endearing journey; soon turns into something that could end badly for the entire group. You’ll settle in for something sweet and emotionally driven, but soon be taken on a wild night that leaves you exhausted and amazed.
So when you’ve got a film that is executed like how ‘Victoria’ is, it makes the most sense that I talk first about the technical aspects of the film. The film clocks in at around 2 hours and 18 minutes, and the entirety of the film is accomplished in one take. Now I was making an effort to look out for any little tricks that would perhaps hide an edit in them, and I’m pretty sure there aren’t any. I genuinely think that the film is fully done in one shot. Now if that is the case, well first off it eats Birdman’s lunch in terms of the one shot, but that also is astounding to consider.
I guess I’ll give some context of to how the film structures itself: The film takes place over one night and from what I could recognise in terms of the landmarks that it presents to you, takes place around the same set of locations. But still, the film certainly takes you on a journey. What is also interesting about the structure of the film is how it eases you into the escalating chaos (which is a weird way to put it). The film starts off with a group of characters that are all enjoying their night; drinks, laughter and smoking are primarily what the characters do together. It’s also how the film introduces you to, and settles you in with its characters.
Sonne (Frederick Lau), Boxer (Franz Rogowski), Blinker (Burak Yigit) and Fuss (Max Mauff) are all out enjoying their night. At the same time, Victoria (Laia Costa) is also out and after some bantering back and forth, decides to join the four for the night. It is here that introductions and the pleasant atmosphere of the film starts. The five of them don’t travel far geographically, but don’t forget this film is all done without cutting, so we are involved in every moment of their interactions. The film does a good job of endearing you to the characters, while also giving you just enough information on who they all are.
Things progress between Sonne and Victoria, and the two split off from the group. This is where the film changes things up and it becomes about these two characters and there slowly developing, liking for one another. The film transforms into a heartfelt romance and the two share who they are with one another. It is this slow build in the beginning of the film that pulls you in and makes you part of it all. We weren’t even to the second act of the film, and I felt like I knew so much about the characters already. I could have happily stayed watching Sonne and Victoria in that empty café for the rest of the night. But of course… things escalate.
Now here is where the film could either lose you or pull you further in (I was the latter). Victoria gets pulled into something that she probably shouldn’t have, and the rest of the film then becomes about one of Sonne’s friends (Boxer) repaying a debt to someone he knew when he was in prison. Things really ramp up in tension at this point, and for the rest of the film it has you gripped.
Now this shift in the story does detract from the development of the characters. Everyone is so caught up in the craziness of the situation, that you lose out in some of the meaningful interactions between the characters – Victoria and Sonne in particular. I would have liked the film to have given more time to the characters in later sections of the film, as it was so brilliant in the early points.
But it’s incredible to see how much is accomplished in this film – mainly because of it all being done in one shot – but you have a film that doesn’t play it safe and make the easy choice. ‘Victoria’ is a film that starts off small, simple and then builds to something that leaves you completely overwhelmed.
Meanwhile as the film going, there is something that I kept zeroing in on… the dialogue. Not only is it inviting, but it also has an air of improvisation to it. There is believability in the way in which the characters talk to one another; which in turn adds to making these people feel real. Characters talk to one another in a genuine way and they react to the situation in a genuine way. I also must stress that the performances by the actors in this film are faultless. Laia Costa (who plays Victoria) delivers something sweet and also emotionally crushing. When Victoria gets to her lowest point, it is a moment that just destroys you. I think that’s partly because we are with these characters from the very beginning. It’s almost as if you’re a part of it all. You’re the sixth character in the film and you’re part of this spontaneous, crazy night.
‘Victoria’ is a totally encompassing experience. Made all the more because of how it is filmed. This is one of those films that will stick in your mind long after it’s done.
I am absolutely going to recommend ‘Victoria’. To put it simply: “Wow”.
I’d love to know what you thought of ‘Victoria’? Please drop a comment down below. If you’d like to read more of my ramblings; feel free to follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you for making it this far, and have a wonderful week.