Sebastian Schipper’s ‘Victoria’ is an anxious and out of the ordinary work that boasts phenomenal lifelike performances and feels effortlessly fluid in its singular stream of cinematography captured in only one take.
It sees Victoria’s night out in Berlin twist out of control upon bumping into a group of young men, also in their mid-twenties, who bend the law, bringing big-pocket opportunities closer to their palms. Beneath this, however, an unlikely connection blossoms between a young man and woman which warms and then tears as sudden events untwine.
It is Sebastian Schipper’s fourth instalment in the director role and in Victoria he has your mouth dry out and your jaw hang down in suspense – he pushes this into overdrive quite frequently, so you have been warned. This film cannot fall short of a novelty; it has an arresting narrative, sees excellent acting unsnarl in front of your eyes and the cinematography is robed with a complex and intense sound design. You’ll agree that with Victoria all of the adulation is most certainly deserved.
A sensual house rhythm gets things started, twinned with disorientating blue and white flashes that reveal outlines of swaying figures inside of the nightclub where Victoria can be seen soaking it all in and unaccompanied. The opening here is both stunningly realistic and atmospheric and avid club-goers watching the film will surely pick up on this. We tail behind Victoria, a Spaniard new to Berlin, as she exits the club and is approached by Sonne, Boxer, Blinker and Fuss; a tight-knit band of ‘brothers’ who push bravery to the point of foolhardiness. The cinematography adopts a video game approach as if Victoria is an avatar and we’re watching everything unfold from a third-person perspective and this is a really nice touch, especially as it allows the audience to interact with her in a way that is often difficult due to jarred editing and distant camera shots in many other films, for instance.
Interestingly, the language barrier is toyed with, and very cleverly so, by Schipper. The german language is subtitled so that we, the audience, can understand the conversations muttered between the men. However, the same cannot be said for Victoria who is inside of the world of the film and uses English as a channel of communication with the Berliners. We question why Sonne, Boxer, Blinker and Fuss alternate between English and German in the earlier stages of the film. Though Victoria does not seem phased by it I could not help but feel otherwise, as if the male characters were being deliberately secretive or had a nasty trick up their sleeve; I found myself feeling very protective of Victoria out of instinct and fearing for her safety, solely because of the language difference and her being in the company of four unpredictable men. It’s true that great directors really make their audience care about their characters.
Police cars shark the neighbourhood and Nils Frahm’s soft ambient score intercepts the soundscape, allowing all the of sync sound to momentarily evaporate as we gaze at Victoria and Sonne’s drunken bike ride with the other three testosterone-pumped men following shortly behind. By the hour mark we’re more aware than ever of the sense of danger that looms within the narrative: Boxer’s criminal past catches up on him bringing the rest of the bunch, including the innocent Victoria, into the core of the action where the story really thrives for the first time. Collectively, the group are carried beyond rational thought and self-control and there are sequences in the film where adrenaline reaches a ridiculous high and it becomes almost trancelike or too much to handle. I found that I was in the midst of a nocturnal nightmare that I did and didn’t want to end. I also forgot that I was a spectating the whole thing too.
Since its 2015 release in Germany, critics have dubbed the film as a stunt and I wholeheartedly disagree; it is manages to be refreshing, seamless and futuristic, showing filmmaking at its absolute best and most real. Had this film been cut together with multiple viewpoints and different camera angles we would have lost the personal interaction we get with Victoria. We hover alongside her like a pilot fish in the depths of the ocean and this, for me, won me over completely. You also find that with the continuous film take there is no time to blink, nor do you feel tired or removed from everything that surrounds the characters. It’s not enough to say that Schipper and crew have raised the bar because what they have here is something truly mind-blowing. The Victoria UK release date is now set for April 1st, 2016 and you would be a fool to miss this one. Go!
Also available on Curzon Home Cinema