Film review – Victoria (Sebastian Schipper, 2015)

The latest film from director Sebastian Schipper is Victoria, a one-shot bank heist film set in modern day Berlin. When I say one-shot, I mean one-shot: no trickery, no cut-aways, no cheating. That’s 138 minutes of film in one continuous take – a bold move that took three attempts to get right. It’s a glorious achievement and a wonder to behold, even though the film is perhaps flawed as a result of its own triumph.

The story centres around the titular Victoria (Laia Costa), a girl we first join in a nightclub in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. She’s alone but when she leaves the club she has a conversation with four men: Sonne (Frederick Lau), Boxer (Frank Rogowski), Blinker (Burak Yigit) and Fuss (Max Mauff). Getting embroiled in their night and swept away with the chemistry between herself and Sonne, she suddenly finds herself agreeing to take part in an early-morning bank heist that puts all of their lives at risk.

One of the greatest achievements involved with this film is the way that the single shot doesn’t get in the way of a well-told story. This is achieved by having five central actors that are focused and well-briefed. Any slip up at any point and the whole thing would fall down. Helping this was the fact the script was only twelve pages long, which meant the cast could improvise their scenes. 

What is lost, however, is the ability to maintain the pace by cutting sections that on reflection didn’t work. There are two instances where I felt they had faded out the audio and brought in the musical soundtrack from Nils Frahm solely to cover up a mess-up in dialogue. I may have been trying too hard to spot the errors knowing editing wasn’t a possibility, but with more freedom the film could have been chopped down to about 100 minutes to deliver a fast-paced action film.

So what would that achieve? Well, perhaps the film would be more accessible by being a faster tempo with no down time. Would I have seen it in an edited form? It’s doubtful. I’m a huge fan of the skill of acting, and thousands of actors achieve wondrous things night after night in theatres across the planet. It’s such a shame that directors and editors don’t have the balls to let them act for more than five seconds at a time in most Hollywood films.

Watching Victoria may require a bit of effort from the viewer, but seeing a group of actors achieve greatness with minimal scripting is worth it. Throw in the fact you are watching a director trying something technically astounding – and succeeding – and you have a film most worthy of your consumption.

A must see!

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