Overview: A young girl working in Berlin befriends four men at the crack of dawn after a night of partying. All is not what it seems, however, as the men share a connection to the underworld that she is now entangled in. Senator Film; 2015; Not Rated; 138 minutes.
An Experiment in Real-Time Cinema: Sebastian Schipper’s German film, Victoria, is a two and a half hour film shot in one take and comprised largely of improvised dialogue. While it is this conceit that concludes every mention of the flick, and seemingly at times a veritable gimmick, it is not. The single take here is used with purpose, conveying a sense of rawness, belying a visceral and organic reality. The truth of the matter is this film, about the corruption of a girl’s innocence over the course of a few hours, is not just a film, it is an experience. The continuous shot is worthy of praise in that it almost hides from its audience. Rather than bringing attention to itself, it allows its audience to further immerse themselves in the film, embellishing the film with an unplanned air that can only come with a real-time progression. Then, when it is all over, this wave, building up over the course of the film, hits like no other. In fact, one would assume the opposite – an inverse build-up, for the harder scenes would require more to reset, thus making it efficient to place them in the forefront. Victoria is a beautifully choreographed movement to a soft piano overture, and the amount of effort and expertise placed in its fulfillment demands recognition. It is a roller-coaster ride of a film that allows us to feel that sense of helplessness, love, brotherly loyalty, unbridled euphoria, tension, and heartbreak.
Reality is Spontaneous: From the opening shot, an electric fluorescent haze over our heroine as she dances in a night club, we are engrossed. Laia Costa exudes a sense of innocence as Victoria, one that begins with her naivete, or stupidity, to trust and follow a group of four disruptive drunkards. There is a sense of building dread that dots their fairly innocuous conversation, as the men continuously block Victoria’s attempts to leave and convince her to stay. This dread slowly disappears however, as the chemistry builds. Eventually, a sense of ease emerges as a bond is formed between these two different groups of people. Then with a single line, “I’m going to break the rules,” Victoria reinstates the feeling dread as the characters become involved in an amateur bank heist, one filled with incompetency and terror. In its aftermath there is no doubt that the threat of danger, which we allowed ourselves to forget, has been been real the whole time.
Overall: Most characters are developed well enough for us to feel sympathetic. And the performances are believable and real. For all we can tell, these are not actors in a movie, and the lines they are saying have never been compiled into a script prior. And if the complaints of the film’s dearth of logic or intelligent characters are too prevailing, put yourself in the characters’ positions, which is not hard as the camera essentially does this for us. Here we have normal people in abnormal situations, and how they react is unprecedented to them and to us, so who are we to justify logic here?