Directed by | Sebastian Schipper
Produced by | Jan Dressler, Christiane Dressler, Sebastian Schipper
Screenplay by | Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Sebastian Schipper, Eike Frederik Schulz
Starring | Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski
Run Time | 138 minutes
Certificate | 15
Plot | Young Spaniard Victoria (Costa) has only recently moved to Berlin and is enjoying a night out. As she leaves a club, a group of local lads offer to show her the “real” Berlin, which she accepts. This begins a sequence of surprising and dangerous events.
Review | Victoria is an extraordinary film. Ambitiously filmed without a single cut from start to finish, this real time thriller will, at the very least, be remembered as an astonishing technical achievement.
Shooting gimmickery aside, Victoria is also a good character-driven drama-turned-thriller. Considering the scope of the filming (the feature runs to in excess of two hours), Costa and co-star Frederik Lau are very impressive. Throughout approximately the first hour, plenty of time is dedicated to the two of them steadily developing a stronger bond. This culminates in a beautifully realised scene in a cafe, where Costa’s Victoria reveals some deep seated anxieties. Lau’s Sonne undergoes an interesting transformation too. Up to this point, he simply seems the ‘nicer’ of the ‘slightly dodgy but fun’ guys that she meets outside the club. He has a charming, if cheeky bravado. However, by the time Victoria plays him some Liszt, the mask slips and we get to see the real Sonne.
Apparently there were only around 12 pages to the script (a tenth of standard), and the cast were asked to improvise whilst on the move. The result is some remarkably realistic dialogue and actions. Combining this with the single take shooting style and, while the plot itself is stretching the boundaries of realism (too much is a little too convenient, especially in the placement of the venues), what the viewer actually sees seems realistic. Rather than characters, these feels like actual people who are experiencing the night to remember – and later, to forget.
There are only a few niggles that hold this back from the absolute upper echelons. While praise is due for the believability of the characters’ actions, there is a one scene/storyline aspect that threatens to shake the viewer’s suspension disbelief. However, without this scene (in the underground car park), a pivotal plotline would be extinguished. Also, there is a trade-off in the opening hour of thrilling excitement for character build. While the build is done really well, and helps us care about Costa and Sonne more later on, some will find the extended opening to be too sedate for a film marketed as a real-time thriller.
The Verdict | Victoria is a good film, with great central performances and is magnificently shot. The first hour is a little slow, but the payoff is just about worth it.