Victoria: a one-take thrill ride through night-time Berlin

Victoria
3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

One take, 138 minutes. From a strobe-lit club to a pale Berlin dawn, Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria plays out in real time over the course of a single eventful night.

Twenty-something Spanish barista Victoria (Laia Costa), drinking alone at a bar, hooks up with a gang of happy-go-lucky chancers, including punch-drunk Brando-alike Sonne (Frederick Lau). Shipper’s camera — operated by the film’s industrious cinematographer, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen — trails them through the city streets; Victoria, the ambiguously romantic Sonne, shave-headed Boxer (Franz Rogowski), motorcycle-jacketed Blinker (Burak Yiğit), and scampish Fuß (Max Mausch).

Less akin to a thriller than Before Sunrise, Victoria seems to be presenting a snapshot of one adventurous evening. That is before our playful, enigmatic protagonist more or less volunteers to help out on a shady-sounding assignment when one of the team is left hors de combat.

Even the three men find themselves enacting a robbery scenario in an underground car park and blonde gangster Andi (André Hennicke) — mainly notable for his resemblance to the late Richard Harris — is threatening to hold “the bitch” as collateral, Victoria keeps it together. Even when the bullets eventually start flying, and the quad are diving for cover, she remains cool-headed.

The lack of believability in her transformation from hapless civilian to effective criminal somewhat undermines the sheer technical prowess on display — at one point we follow the crew up a ladder onto a rooftop. The performances are so of the moment, though, and feel increasingly authentic as exhaustion sets in. Veering from exuberant to downbeat, the film combines intoxicated social realism with a heist rivaled only by Reservoir Dogs.

The shallow focus may leave you queasy and things take longer to play out than strictly necessary — there’s more than one protracted elevator journey — but Victoria is inarguably impressive.

Author: robertmwallis

Graduate of Royal Holloway and the London Film School. Founder of Of All The Film Sites; formerly Of All The Film Blogs (www.ofallthefilmblogs.blogspot.co.uk). Formerly Film & TV Editor of The Metropolist (www.themetropolist.com) and Official Sidekick at A Place to Hang Your Cape (www.ap2hyc.com). Co-host of the Electric Shadows podcast (http://bit.ly/29Pd7RS) and member of the Online Film Critics Society (http://www.ofcs.org).

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