Film review: VICTORIA, from ‘Built For Speed’

Although it boasts the novelty of having been shot in one continuous take, low-budget German movie Victoria thankfully manages to be a complete film rather than an indulgent experiment. With its unusual ebb and flow of tension and manic action, Victoria intrigues, unnerves and excites in equal measure.

The title character (Laia Costa) is a young Spanish woman who lives in Berlin and works for a pittance in a cafe.  After an evening at a hideous bunker-like nightclub, she runs into four very suspicious looking and weirdly-named guys, Sonne (Frederick Lau), Boxer (Franz Rogowski), Fuss (Max Mauff) and Blinker (Burak Yigit) who creepily try to ingratiate themselves to her. We fear the worst as they talk her into coming with them to a party. Alarm bells sound even louder as, along the way, they get into a fight with some thugs and steal from a bottle shop. All is not quite as it seems, though, as the film shifts from what seems to be a woman in peril drama to romance to nerve-jangling crime film.

As with last year’s ground-breaking Birdman, all the action in Victoria transpires without edits. The film was apparently shot in one continuous take although it took three attempts to get this take right. The actors reportedly worked from a 12 page script and had to improvise a lot of their dialogue.

For the most part, director Sebastian Schipper and cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen make this technique work remarkably well creating a real-time experience and a sense of immersion in Victoria’s world. They also capture the threatening seediness of Berlin nightlife and through the rambling one take method, the characters sense of unfettered aimlessness. Still, 138 minutes is too long given the minimal plot and a few scenes seem to go on interminably.

Impressively, the actors rarely stumble even though they are essentially performing the film like a play. Appropriately, Laia Costa is the standout cast member as she convincingly depicts Victoria transforming from vulnerable naïve innocent to wild child to highly resourceful combatant.

The film also benefits from a fine soundtrack that mixes pulsating dance music with an ominous classical score as well as a remarkable piano piece from Victoria herself.

Victoria slightly outstays its welcome but offers plenty of inventive filmmaking, intrigue and thrills along the way.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2.

Genre: Drama.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Sebastian Schipper.

Release date: 10th March 2016.

Running time: 138 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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