PrintE-mail Written by Courtney Button

Some films are known mostly for their filmic gimmicks, whether it be an entirely first person viewpoint, a disordered chronology or being denounced by the Catholic Church. The long take is a technique that often appears in films but rarely do they last for the whole running time. Most recently, the Oscar winning Birdman was made to seem like one shot that lasted its entire two-hour running time, spanning several days in the course of the film’s story; in reality, several long shots were stitched together with editing trickery. Victoria’s entire two-hour-twenty-minute was shot in one long take without any editing. So does this huge achievement amount to anything more than a useful marketing technique? Thankfully, yes.

Victoria (Laia Costa), a young Spanish woman who has been living in Berlin for several months, meets a group of friends in a club in the early hours of the morning. Their burgeoning friendship and flirtations take a dark turn as the group is forced into committing an illegal act.

As the credits roll the first person listed is the cinematographer Sturla Brandth GrØvlen and he is most certainly the MVP of the film. The camera moves from lifts, upstairs, into cars and stays with the characters and action when they run around, cycle, dance, and dive about. That the camera keeps up with them is a testament to the skill and planning of the filmmakers; the fact that the shot is always focused, coherent and often wonderful looking is nothing short of a miracle. The camera makes you feel like another player in the story, making you complicit with everything that the group do which can make you even feel guilty.

Instead of writing a full script, Victoria consisted of a twelve-page story treatment. As a result, most of the dialogue was improvised, something which the cast have taken to with aplomb. None of the dialogue or scenes feel awkward or forced. The characters may have rough edges but you grow to feel empathetic towards them and are interested in their lives and their predicament as their backstories slowly unfold. Our eponymous protagonist Victoria, is a young woman who feels alone and isolated in a city where she knows nobody and we are happy to see her connect and make friends with people. One or two of her decisions feel a little like they are chosen just to progress the story, the only minor criticism I have of the film, but they don’t feel entirely outside of her character. The laddish group of guys that she falls in with, are enjoyable, well-rounded and human. The soundtrack, a first-time film soundtrack from composer Nils Frahm, is subtle and affecting, drifting in to lift and perfectly compliment certain scenes.

Technically astonishing, exciting, intense, well performed and entertaining; Victoria is quite simply one of the best films of the year.



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