Starring: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Running Time: 138 mins
Victoria is a German film about a young Spanish woman who meets a group of four men in the suburbs of Berlin, at the beginning of a long, exhausting and potentially deadly night out.
Visually, Victoria is spectacular. Shot in one breathtakingly long take, this is a vibrant and pulsating film full of visual intricacies that never lets up from start to finish, whilst the performances are fantastic, developing brilliantly over the real-time story. However, the slow-moving story really damages this film, struggling to get going for almost an hour, and although it offers some good thrills in the middle period, it’s nowhere near as thrilling as its stunning visuals deserve.
So, I’ll start with the cinematography, and the fact that this film is just one two hour-long take. There are no cuts, no special editing tricks, just a real-time depiction of a long and crazy night. That feat alone is exceptional, and when you’re watching, if you think back to the fact that everything has happened in one take, it’s really special.
However, the cinematography is by no means distracting or intrusive. The visuals feel completely natural, and within minutes, it’s very easy to forget that everything is done in one long shot. However, that technique does have a very impressive effect on your viewing experience here.
The fact that this is all done in one take makes it feel so much more immersive, taking you through every single detail of this woman’s long night. I found myself comparing it to the tiring After Hours, but it’s in fact even more exhausting to watch. This isn’t like a normal film where editing can speed the plot along and move you to the next big event quickly, because you have to watch the characters physically move themselves around the city of Berlin.
The ground that’s covered in this film is pretty spectacular, but the fact that you are taken along for every single moment of this night makes it amazingly exhausting. On the one hand, that’s a very good thing, because it means that you’re able to empathise to a greater extent with the characters as the night goes on and the situation becomes more and more desperate.
On the other hand, the fact that this is such an exhausting watch isn’t so great. The first fifty minutes spring to mind, because, quite simply, nothing happened. With crushingly slow pacing as the characters are introduced, I found myself exhausted and bored even before the film properly got going, and then that feeling was replicated in the last twenty minutes or so as the story settled down. Between that, it’s great, and it picks up brilliantly, but the pacing in this film means that it is the true definition of a SLOW-BURN thriller.
Finally, the performances are great. Whilst the story doesn’t offer too much intrigue deep into the characters, the actors do a stunning job at dealing with the one long take. Much like I felt watching the film, the actors become clearly visibly exhausted on screen as the night takes it toll, which came about in such a natural way that you could never get from a stop-start, edited film.
Overall, Victoria is a visual and technical triumph. Its one long take is absolutely breathtaking, and the performances work brilliantly within. Its story does offer some excitement in the middle stage, but the opening and final act were just far too slow and exhaustive to be anywhere near as good as the technical feats here, so that’s why I’m giving this a 7.4.