David Strat­ton

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews -

Vic­to­ria (MA15+) Lim­ited re­lease from Thurs­day

Ev­ery artist likes to ex­per­i­ment at some time or an­other. Al­fred Hitch­cock was per­haps the most cel­e­brated di­rec­tor who be­came fa­mous for his at­tempts to bring some­thing new, dif­fer­ent and risky to con­ven­tional cinema, whether mak­ing a film set in a lifeboat ( Lifeboat) or em­brac­ing 1950s 3-D ( Dial M for Mur­der).

In 1948, he filmed the Pa­trick Hamil­ton play Rope in a se­ries of 10-minute takes, 10 min­utes be­ing the max­i­mum amount of film that could be loaded into a cam­era at the time. To make it seem as though the en­tire film was shot with­out a cut, he dis­guised the ed­its by — among other ef­fects — mov­ing the cam­era into dark places where the es­sen­tial cut would be un­ob­tru­sive.

His tech­nique was much dis­cussed and ad­mired, though it can be ar­gued that cre­ative edit­ing can add to the sus­pense of a film. More re­cently, Ale­jan­dro G. Inar­ritu’s Os­car-win­ning Bird­man used a sim­i­lar tech­nique.

It’s far more rad­i­cal, though, to ac­tu­ally shoot a film in one sin­gle take, and now that cinema em­ploys dig­i­tal record­ing rather than film this is pos­si­ble, pro­vided the ac­tion has been care­fully re­hearsed.

In 2002, Rus­sian film­maker Alexan­der Sokurov shot the 95-minute Rus­sian Ark as one con­tin­u­ous Steadicam take through St Peters­burg’s Her­mitage Mu­seum. Eleven years later, Ira­nian di­rec­tor Shahram Mokri upped the ante with Fish & Cat, a 133-minute drama shot in one take on a lake­side lo­ca­tion, where se­rial killers prey on un­sus­pect­ing cam­pers. This film was pretty much un­seen out­side the fes­ti­val cir­cuit, but now the lat­est one-take won­der, Ger­man di­rec­tor Se­bas­tian Schip­per’s 139-minute Vic­to­ria, is get­ting a lim­ited re­lease on Aus­tralian cinema screens.

On a tech­ni­cal level, few would re­fute the fact that Schip­per and his Dan­ish cin­e­matog­ra­pher, Sturla Brandth Grovlen, have pulled off a re­mark­able feat. This sort of ad­ven­tur­ous film­mak­ing must be hard on the ac­tors, too. What hap­pens if, two hours in, you miss your mark? (The film’s di­a­logue was im­pro­vised, so ac­tors flub­bing lines weren’t a ma­jor is­sue.)

From the open­ing shot, in a night­club filled with peo­ple and il­lu­mi­nated by strobe light­ing, to the ironic fi­nal im­age, Grovlen’s daz­zling achieve­ment is rea­son alone to see the film.

De­trac­tors, with some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, could ac­cuse the film of be­ing lit­tle more than a lav­ish stunt — but it’s a pretty damned im­pres­sive one.

For a con­cept such as this, the plot has to of­fer plenty of ac­tion and move­ment, and Schip­per and his cred­ited co-writ­ers, Olivia Neer­gaard-Holm and Eike Fred­erik Schulz, have come up with a rip­ping yarn about a girl, a boy and a rob­bery. Noth­ing new here, yet some­how the film­mak­ers im­bue the fa­mil­iar plot me­chan­ics with a wel­come fresh­ness.

The epony­mous Vic­to­ria, played by Laia Costa, is a young woman in her 20s. She has taken time away from her home in Madrid and is on a three-month work­ing hol­i­day in Ber­lin, work­ing the break­fast shift as a wait­ress in a cafe in the city’s Mitte district, but not al­low­ing her early start­ing time to de­ter her from en­joy­ing a rave at 4am in a club, which is where the film’s open­ing scene takes place.

As she leaves the club to have a brief sleep be­fore start­ing work, she meets Sonne (Fred­er­ick Lau), a prac­tised flirt and se­ri­ous charmer, who in­vites her to join him and his three not-socharm­ing friends, in­clud­ing ex-con­vict Boxer (Franz Ro­gowski). Dur­ing this in­ter­lude, Vic­to­ria im­presses the Ger­mans by demon­strat­ing her prow­ess as a pi­anist and re­veals that she was a mu­sic stu­dent in Spain.

Al­though at this point we know lit­tle about Vic­to­ria, it seems cer­tain she has few, if any, friends in Ber­lin. Oth­er­wise, why would she be so eas­ily con­vinced to hang out with Sonne and his friends in the early hours of the morn­ing, es­pe­cially when they pro­pose go­ing back to the apart­ment where they live for a few more drinks?

At this point the de­tached viewer may well won­der why a seem­ingly sen­si­ble young woman would take the risk of ac­com­pa­ny­ing four com­plete strangers to the place they claim is their apart­ment in the middle of the night. One of the prob­lems of Vic­to­ria is that the film re­quires rather large leaps of faith such as this. But, of course, if Vic­to­ria didn’t go along with the guys then the film would end abruptly as a bit of a fizzer.

This isn’t the only im­prob­a­ble de­ci­sion on Vic­to­ria’s part. Ap­par­ently at­tracted to Sonne, she agrees re­place the quar­tet’s des­ig­nated driver and get be­hind the wheel of a car that, it’s clear, has been stolen. This is (as The Goons used to say) where the story re­ally starts, as the nar­ra­tive en­com­passes a bank rob­bery, a se­ri­ously dan­ger­ous gang­ster (An­dre Hen­nicke) and a sus­pense­ful ren­dezvous in a de­serted park­ing sta­tion.

Im­prob­a­ble as the plot may be­come, few at this stage of the pro­ceed­ings will worry too much — they should be hav­ing too good a time ad­mir­ing the fluid skill of the cam­era work and the ebbs and flows of the plot. In this re­spect, Vic­to­ria can be com­pared favourably to a suc­cess­ful Ger­man film of a few years back, Tom Tyk­wer’s Run Lola Run, with which it has some ba­sic sim­i­lar­i­ties.

Costa is an agree­able if ex­tremely in­gen­u­ous hero­ine and the rest of the cast play their stock char­ac­ters with ef­fi­ciency. As a bonus, there’s a driv­ing mu­sic score by Nils Frahm that helps pa­per over some of the film’s dodgier mo­ments.

CAN BE COM­PARED FAVOURABLY TO TOM TYK­WER’S

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