The single take or one shot sequence, or whatever you want to call it, has been a consistently celebrated use of filmmaking to create a sense of reality or hyper-realism. The single take has been around almost as long as filmmaking actually has. From Hitchcock to this film, it has consistently gained more and more love from the critics and audiences themselves. But of course, the next logical conclusion from creating a small one take sequence to one that’s even longer is finally making a movie all in one uncut sequence. It takes a lot of discipline, but with a number of rehearsals and dedicated cast & crew, it can create a seamless feeling throughout the entire film. And that’s what Victoria does effortlessly.
Laia Costa is Victoria, a Spanish immigrant new to Berlin. The film begins with a roar inside a club filled with pulsing dance music and our titular character dancing away. Not in so long has a film almost perfectly described what’s about to come in such a simple way. Victoria is, at first, a pixie type girl that is so clumsily happy and easy-going, I wouldn’t be surprised if she would turn up in a romantic-comedy. Director Sebastian Schipper allows her character to develop from a sad stereotype to a three dimensional woman all over the course of the speedy 2 hours and twenty minutes. And the film is able to fit more than just the development of one character. Several of the goons that she comes in contact all have interesting tales and stories about each other that we learn over the course of their journey involving drinking in the streets, dancing in the club, and robbing a bank. Yet, Schipper is able to craft a beautiful drama at the same time.
Victoria isn’t just the one-shot film. The narrative is so carefully plotted, it’s hard to recognize the improvisation of almost the lines of the characters while moving from German to English. Victoria feels like a less daunting film to watch when you forget how it was made. It feels fluid and incredibly realistic. Despite a slow first third of the movie that mainly focuses on developing the main relationship, it remains engrossing through various moments that include a beautifully performed piece of piano playing and the electronic score performed by German musician, Nils Frahm, with what is definitely one of my favorite scores of the year. Minimal, yet forceful when it needs to be, Frahm’s score is incredibly important to the feeling of the quiet moments, or the not so quiet moments, in particular another club sequence where the score dubs over the house music to create one of the most beautiful sequences I’ve seen in a theatre this year.
Schipper should be commended for the transition between the emotional, slow-going drama of the first third to becoming a heist thriller in the second. The change is near perfect and settles the characters for something that feels natural in the direction of the story. While little information is given into why this heist occurs, the stakes are there and the consequences become more prevalent as the time goes on. When the heist actually arrives, it’s almost unsatisfying as you stay with Victoria in the drivers seat of the vehicle before things only get worse for her. Costa is able to show the panic and exhilaration in one fell swoop and it’s commendable.
Easy to admire and even easier to enjoy, Victoria shattered all my expectations for what it would be and how it would tell its story. It’s hard to talk about the movie without bringing up the way it was shot, but it’s constantly stated because of how hard it would be to keep the movie as exciting without it. Schipper has a film that is infinitely entertaining, if not slow at moments, but the true question is whether or not it would hold up without the long take. It’s not a question we’ll ever know the answer to, and whether or not the movie is able to stand the test of time is my next question. I’m definitely interested to find out the answer to that.