The most obvious thing to note about this title is that it’s all one continuous shot lasting two hours and ten minutes. The first closing credit (usually reserved for director or lead actor) goes to the camera operator. Knowing that in advance of watching the film, you begin to start looking for wrong turns, shakes, and errors, but after a short amount of time you almost forget that it’s all one take. The camera glides to show us the reactions of each character. Often it feels like we are stood next to the characters on the street. You would’ve thought that scenes inside cars would be below par, but even these have a sense of being naturalistic as the claustrophobia and tension is layered.
At first we see Victoria, from the title, in a nightclub. It’s 4am and she is leaving the club when she meets four Berlin locals who promise to show her the real side of the city. Little does she know what she is about to be embroiled in. The implications of her new found friendship materialise slowly as language barriers stop her from fully understanding the exact nature of a debt repayment. The five of them are pushed to their limits in criminal activity through the early hours.
The performances here are fantastic. Specifically the lead (Laia Costa) and Sonne (Frederick Lau) whom exchange flirtations. The long conversations between the two of them give the film a strong narrative thread. The sense of time is well captured (given that the film has to start around 4am and finish just after 6am, or thereabouts). The time of day, and therefore the lighting, contribute to the established unease of the take. We also begin to understand that these people are separated from wider society; the film taking place during anti-social hours, when most people would be asleep.
Whilst we do not see much physical violence on screen, the central characters are trapped in situations of systematic violence, and also inflict systematic violence on others. With the exception of a few seconds, the camera stays with the lead, indicating our alignment with her. As a result we too are pulled into the narrative, and implicated in the acts of violence. It’s actually ruthless, but this is not to criticise ‘Victoria‘. The fact it’s unapologetic is what makes it so great.
The only thing in the film that is added on, or really edited at all, is the score. Nils Frahm only highlights the atmosphere of each scene or exchange. In turn he brings about a feeling of fear, of elation, and then sadness. The score is prominent when it replaces the diegetic music in the nightclub, this reflects the emotional state of the characters (this being easier to portray outside of the nightclub environment).
All of the obstacles in making a film that never cuts are eliminated or muted with close attention to detail. Director Sebastian Schipper, and Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (Camera) together manage to create a feature that leaves you fearful and cautious.
[rating=5] | Zach Roddis
Crime, Drama | Germany, 2015 | 15 |Curzon Artificial Eye | 23rd May 2016 (UK DVD) |Dir.Sebastian Schipper | Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski,Burak Yigit | Buy:[DVD]