Shooting a film in one single take sans edits may be commonplace of late, but Victoria proves anything but ordinary.
Starting a film with the plain sight of a black screen and the pulsating sound of a throbbing beat isn't an unusual choice. Fading in to reveal a dance floor writhing with bodies and movement, as illuminated in strobe-lit snippets, is a similarly unsurprising next step. As many a movie about adrenaline-fuelled antics has commenced, so does Victoria. There's much that feels familiar, from the feature's nightclub meet-cute to its turn into heist hijinks; however actor turned writer/director Sebastian Schipper (Sometime in August) ventures beyond the expected.
The same can be said about the titular Victoria (Laia Costa, Fort Ross) herself, who, amid the fun-seeking folks flashing their fancy footsteps, comes to monopolise the frame. The Spanish visitor to Berlin spends her days working in a cafe and her evenings letting lose in dark, booze-soaked spaces, which is where she meets Sonne (Frederick Lau, The King's Surrender). He may be palling around with his mates – Boxer (Franz Rogowski, Love Steaks), Blinker (Burak Yigit, Einstein) and Fuß (Max Mauff, TV's Sense8) – but his charm and their camaraderie inspires Victoria to tag along as they head off into the early hours of the morning. Their drinking and flirting soon turns serious when she discovers that her newfound friends have a dangerous favour to repay, and they need her help.
So unravels an effort that starts with a party vibe, switches to the walk-and-talk first throes of romance, and then becomes steeped in the planning, staging and aftermath of a robbery. Just as the movie moves between genres, so its visuals roam and rove, too, the camera on the same continual journey as the narrative. Schipper's approach, shooting the feature in one single take sans edits, may be commonplace of late, yet proves anything but ordinary. The filmmaker lets his movie live in the moment, and then layers the mundane and the immediate alike, resulting in intimate, urgent storytelling.
Indeed, Victoria takes the time to get to know its characters during their first meeting, loiters as their relationship ebbs and flows, and then, when it increases the stakes and the drama, reveals just how immersed in their fates audiences have become. Thankfully, the flair and finesse evident in flitting from frantic to thoughtful never detracts from the very personal matters at the heart of the movie, nor from its considered performances. Victoria may be a feature happy to thrust its style in the viewer's face, and then wait to fill in the narrative gaps, but it is also one concerned with the perception and perspective of its protagonist above all else. Witness the slow, stately moments of pause, as contrasted with hand-held, on-the-run rushing, for just two of the movie's expressions of the extremes of Victoria's evening.
In fact, with the assistance of his cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (I Am Here), Schipper has crafted an effort that could be several movies at once – and here, unlike most cases where that claim is made, such variety a good thing. While that rings true for the tale itself, as co-written with editor Olivia Neergaard-Holm as well as on-screen barkeeper Eike Frederik Schulz, it also resounds in the camera trickery. Creating variance in a film that unravels in one 140-minute shot is an accomplishment few efforts achieve, let alone with the assurance and coherence on display. That the feature was filmed three times through shows in the flow of the final product, a heady, hectic, engaging and emotional feat of choreography and logistics in cinema.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Germany, 2015, 140 mins
Sydney Film Festival
June 3 – 14