This German thriller takes place in the small hours in Berlin, and follows a young Spanish woman (Laia Costa) who hits it off with a local guy (Frederick Lau) – until things start to go south. Think of it as Before Sunrise meets Run Lola Run.
Victoria is recognised as a considerable technical achievement, as it’s all captured in one long take – long being the operative word. While Birdman and Rope are presented as continuous takes, Victoria is the real deal: a 138-minute shot, impressively coordinated and captured around the streets of Berlin. With a 12-page script and plenty of improvisation, director Sebastian Schipper filmed the piece three times and used the best version. The result is intimate and immediate, creating a sense of realism that’s sadly undermined by the unfolding events.
When Victoria decides to wander off into the underbelly of Berlin with four wholly objectionable individuals, it turns into the worst night out since A Royal Night Out. These unpleasant characters and their increasingly nasty actions leave you rooting against them, while the naturalistic performances are let down by the implausible scenario. Costa is highly watchable in the title role, on screen the whole time – except for when it serves the plot. And while one can forgive a few lapses in logic for the sake of this experiment in cinematography, there are simply too many plot holes for a film so apparently concerned with realism.
There’s no doubting Schipper’s technical accomplishment, which puts the viewer right in the back seat and elicits some exhilarating moments. But like the 2000 movie Timecode – where the screen is split into four quadrants, each showing a continuous take – the technique is never matched by the storytelling. So despite commendable cinematography, sound and acting, the implausible situation and unlikeable characters make Victoria less than victorious.