Director: Sebastian Schipper
Cast: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski
Watch Victoria online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Sky Store / Google Play
There’s nothing more impressive than a film with a really long take. From Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Kubrick’s Paths of Glory to Welles’ A Touch of Evil and Antonioni’s The Passenger. Béla Tarr has a lot to answer for. But even he might be gob-smacked by Sebastian Schipper’s film, Victoria, which unfolds in real time – in one continuous shot. For two hours.
The movie follows the eponymous girl (Laia Costa), who finds her holiday in Berlin hijacked when she bumps into Sonne (Lau) and friends one evening. The pair get to know each other quietly, bonding with all the loosely-performed realism of Richard Linklater – then things take a twist for the dramatic.
Schipper’s decision to shoot everything in one go is less bold and more outrageously bonkers, but it’s breathtaking to witness. After all, even Hitchcock’s Rope had to fake it. And Hitch didn’t even leave the living room. Victoria, on the other hand, goes everywhere, from clubs to rooftops to car parks to other people’s living rooms. The genre shifts too, from romance to heist to drug-fuelled partying – a tornado of unpredictable twists.
That pacing helps disguise the slightly far-fetched plot, which escalates surprisingly quickly, but it also helps us connect with the characters through the verisimilitude; we experience what they experience and, like Victoria, can only get to know the others based on that. Exposition, drama, violent; it all happens at the speed it does in real life, which makes for a uniquely immersive experience.
And yet Schipper is also confident to allow that momentum to vary: the soft first act includes, amazingly, a piano solo by Victoria, which Costa plays live on camera, before going on to perform everything else for another 90 minutes. In the aftermath of that beautiful sequence, Victoria’s frustration, anger and fear are even more astonishing to witness. They don’t even pause to go to the bathroom. Thrilling, funny and all kinds of epic, Victoria is a relentless tour de force that doesn’t let up. In your face, Bela Tarr.