HK Magazine - - FILM -

(Ger­many) Thriller. Di­rected by Se­bas­tian Schip­per. Star­ring Laia Costa, Fred­er­ick Lau, Franz Ro­gowski. Cat­e­gory IIB. 138 min­utes. Opened Aug 18. “Vic­to­ria” opens in a packed, smoky un­der­ground club in Ber­lin, a close-up on a girl danc­ing alone. You’ll get used to see­ing this girl—Vic­to­ria (Laia Costa), vis­it­ing from Madrid. Out­side the club, Vic­to­ria meets four guys: lo­cal Ber­lin­ers who prom­ise to show her the real city. In one seam­less take over two hours and 18 min­utes, Vic­to­ria goes from lonely girl in a for­eign club to dan­ger­ous fugi­tive run­ning from the po­lice. On its tech­ni­cal mer­its alone the film is an im­pres­sive feat, but more im­pres­sive still is how the tech­nique helps en­able nat­u­ral­is­tic sto­ry­telling and con­sis­tent sus­pense.

Any film en­thu­si­ast knows that any ex­tended one-take cut is very easy to screw up; a whole one-take movie, there­fore, re­quires metic­u­lous chore­og­ra­phy and plan­ning from those be­hind the cam­era, and per­sis­tent pitch-per­fect act­ing from those in front of it. Some­how “Vic­to­ria” has achieved all of this, and in so do­ing swept six Ger­man Film Awards and won a Sil­ver Bear at the 2015 Ber­lin Film Fes­ti­val.

From a film­goer’s per­spec­tive “Vic­to­ria” is highly watch­able, dot­ted with thought­ful con­ver­sa­tions and cap­ti­vat­ing scenes of a tran­quil Ber­lin: The quiet night on a res­i­den­tial rooftop where four best friends whis­per about their re­grets and hopes; the flir­ta­tious drunken bike ride lead­ing to an un­de­ni­able at­trac­tion. The di­a­logue and act­ing is so nat­u­ral and unas­sum­ing it feels im­pro­vised, though the cast and crew re­hearsed the en­tire thing three times be­fore film­ing its one take, all in one night. It’s hard not to fall for th­ese char­ac­ters as the night un­folds, and trust them, in the same way that Vic­to­ria quickly warms to the group.

The sin­gle-take for­mula here ne­ces­si­tates con­tin­u­ous sub­tle, rapid changes in point of view, with a quick tilt of the cam­era to look at who’s speak­ing to make you feel in­volved. Each event crops up un­ex­pect­edly, gen­er­at­ing in the au­di­ence a sense of con­stant sur­prise—and in fact, the less you know about the premise and story, the more you can en­joy th­ese sur­prises as an out­sider, much like our pro­tag­o­nist her­self.

Rather than rely on cuts to con­vey nar­ra­tive tran­si­tions, as in a con­ven­tional film, “Vic­to­ria” re­lies on sud­den vari­a­tions in sound level and changes in mu­sic. And with a beau­ti­ful score by Ger­man elec­tronic pro­ducer Nils Frahm, you’re treated to some delectable, ro­man­tic, and at times ex­hil­a­rat­ing sto­ry­telling.

The movie does suf­fer some­what from the curse of shaky cam, which can’t re­ally be avoided in chase scenes—so that, by the last 20-minute stretch, I felt a lit­tle mo­tion sick­ness creep in (though this is com­ing from some­one who gets sick watch­ing “Call of Duty” game­play, so I can’t speak for ev­ery­one).

If “Vic­to­ria” were shot like any other movie, it would have been no more than a solid thriller. But in­stead, di­rec­tor Se­bas­tian Schip­per demon­strates how it’s pos­si­ble to cre­ate nar­ra­tive tran­si­tions with­out the ed­i­to­rial ma­nip­u­lat­ing of time and space. Per­haps more than this, Schip­per is to be com­mended for tak­ing the one-take for­mat—some­thing that in fea­ture length is usu­ally con­fined to rar­i­fied, art­house cinema— and mak­ing it so com­pelling and re­lat­able. If you thought the pre­tend-seam­less­ness of “Bird­man” was good, wait ‘til you see “Vic­to­ria.” Eve­lyn Lok

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