Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Film: 'Victoria'

This film (in English and subtitled German) has at least one remarkable feature which you may have heard about, namely that it's filmed in one long, continuous take (with hand-held camera), uninterrupted for its entire two hours and a quarter's length. (This has been tried - or at least attempted to give the impression of being so - famously in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rope' - where one can actually make out the 'joins' for oneself, he in 1948 being restricted by cameras that had to be replenished with new film every few minutes. Also, very recently it was attempted with only partial success in 'Birdman'.) 

'Victoria' is set in present-day Berlin (refreshingly, we see none of those 'touristy' sights) where a bubbly, twenty-something Spanish woman (Laia Costa) who speaks no German, is dancing the night away in a disco and attracts the attention of an English-speaking German of similar age (Frederick Lau). Once outside she's introduced to his three pals, an unsavoury trio of rowdy yobs busy breaking into a parked car - and, unbelievably, she decides to stick with them. After her clubbing she's certainly light-headed, though hardly too drunk to explain her unaccountable action. (She even gets into a lift/elevator with two of them, already acting familiar to her - and she'd only met them a few minutes before!) This is just one of a whole series of stretches of credibility which pervades the whole film.
It's too late for her to return home as she's got to open up the nearby coffee shop where she works in a few hours time, so she takes the first guy back there, after a little shoplifting, (Ho ho! What larks!) with his three hell-raisers in tow. Things take a strange turn when it turns out that all four males are required to do something for someone else, only one of them finding himself indisposed, she offers to fill his place - and soon gets into deep water, their meeting with the man demanding the 'job' being done, with his armed 'heavies' manhandling them and turning out threats if they don't comply. It all gets very serious!

During the film's course there were moments where the suspense screws were effectively applied and I was drawn in, but time and again this agreeable mood was demolished by the unlikeliness of the development, usually to do with the decisions of Victoria herself.

Director Sebastian Schipper has no doubt achieved a pioneering product in terms of continuity. How on earth they managed to keep the whole sequence going for so long with no breaks, and without needing to re-shoot is beyond me - and how everyone knew what to do and say the whole time was really something. That aspect alone was singularly quite breathtaking. However, pondering afterwards on what I'd just seen I began on hindsight to recognise flaws in the timing aspect. Twice during the film the actual time of night/dawn is stated - and as it was set in 'real time', which it indeed was, then only just over two hours had elapsed between dead of night and full morning daylight. It seemed, on reflection, something like five hours had gone by. 

But it was the strains on my credulity which took the biggest toll. I think if more care had been taken to make the story-line more plausible then it might so easily have been an even better film than it was....................6.


  1. It sounds interesting, but, alas, I doubt it will play near Smallville ....

    1. It's definitely an 'art-house' film, Bob - and one that's worth seeing mainly for its unusual accomplishment.