Sebastian Schipper, Olivia Neergaard-Holm and Eike Frederik Schulz
Victoria is a movie with a gimmick. This is not to say that Victoria isn’t a worthwhile film or that it’s a film that can’t stand on its own, but the gimmick it carries is undeniable or rather, the gimmick carries the film. The gimmick of this German crime thriller is that it weighs in at nearly two-and-a-half hours, and the entire movie takes place over one long take. This is to say that there are no cuts, no multiple shots, no scene breaks. The entire plot of the film unfolds, as it happens, in real time, and the camera never cuts or looks away.
This is, in and of itself, an achievement worthy of praise. Victoria isn’t a bottle movie. It’s not one location with four characters. This film takes place on a city-wide scale, involves driving, riding, walking, running through countless city streets and over many locations, with many characters big-and-small. To think that the entirety of the film is largely just a stage play, that takes place over the biggest stage in the world, and is shown to the audience with a single moving camera is a jaw-dropping prospect. Out of the gate, this movie is set to be technically impressive, and it is.
The film’s namesake, Victoria, is a Spanish woman living and working in Germany. When the film begins, she’s out partying at a dance club, maybe having one too many drinks, and staying up a tad too late. When she catches the attentions of four local boys, she disregards her better judgement and sets out with the strangers to see where the night takes her. They move from misadventure to misadventure, as the German men attempt to impress her, with varying results. The men are loud and spontaneous, and the somewhat reserved Victoria is enchanted by them. As the night draws on, Victoria is swept up into a situation involving the underground criminal world in Germany, putting our heroine into situations she’d probably rather not be in.
Ultimately, Victoria’s one-take method makes this film a grand experiment, but the experiment yields a flawed film. After all, when you finally wrap your shoot, and a scene isn’t working, or if it drags on too long, there’s no real way to edit for time. The film is one long shot, and to make any kind of editorial changes, you’d have to shoot a very long and complex film all over again. A filmmaker would literally be going back to the very beginning only to do it all over again. To that end, the story beats and pacing of Victoria can be overly slow at times and we spend a lot of time getting to know the characters and following them through a series of silly moments. While the audience comes to understand these characters, in hindsight one is left wondering if some of the scenes were necessary?
This is not to say that Victoria isn’t entertaining. Victoria and her friends are very charismatic and deeply likeable people, and even when their actions are less-than-savory, or even unethical, you really don’t want to see any harm come to them. They’re good folk, and you want them to succeed. But the real moments that will make the audience hold their breath and grip the arms of their seat won’t be happening until well into the second-half of the film.
Overall Victoria is a technical marvel and well worth the price of admission. The second half where we are treated to underground parking garages, heists, and police chases is a well-deserved dollop of icing on the cake.
– Trevor T. Trujillo
Fantastic Fest takes place from Sept 24 – Oct 1. Visit the festival’s official website for more information.