Only a German director would be efficient enough to so flawlessly execute a film as technically tenacious as Victoria. It’s almost impossible to not discuss Sebastian Schipper’s first feature in six years without focusing on the complex camera device at its centre, and justly so. Audaciously shot as a single take that soars effortlessly higher than Birdman ever did, it’s a triumph in filmmaking, despite the generic trappings of the plot.
Set in real time, we open on the image of a twenty-something girl in a club, alone, dancing to pounding techno. She is our eponymous heroine, Victoria (Laia Costa), a Spanish senorita recently moved to Berlin, living on minimum wage and struggling to acclimatise to the German language. Hope of finding someone she connects with, however, soon appears in the form of the playfully attractive Sonne (Frederick Lau). Then, having got to know him and his friends, her night suddenly takes a deadly twist.
Schipper’s direction is triumphantly virtuoso. Supported by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s superb cinematography and Nils Frahm’s stirring score, he shoots the action with a smooth cohesion that sustains a magnetic momentum. Holding focus on the faces of his characters, the director skillfully suffuses Victoria’s growing trauma, which forcefully flings her from a drug-fuelled rave into the centre of a bank robbery orchestrated by Sonne’s friend Boxer (Franz Rogowski), with a visceral strength that’s emotionally exhaustive and electrifyingly euphoric.It’s undoubtedly an exhilarating ride, reminiscent in its intensity of Run Lola Run, and one told through a set of tremendous performances. Burdened with appearing in practically every frame, Laia Costa carries the film almost effortlessly, compounding her natural chemistry with Frederick Lau, and Victoria’s desperation to form a friendship, as a means for defining her character’s apparent willingness to be involved in Sonne’s illegal activities. It’s a towering turn, worthy of our time, and fused with passion and profundity.
The nagging problem throughout is that the narrative, co-written by Schipper with the help of Olivia Neergaard-Holm and Eike Frederik Schulz, is both basic and, at times implausible. The first act, which sets the scene and develops the characters by way of a rooftop reverie, is in desperate need of being compressed, whilst the second and third plays fast and loose with credibility by employing a number of convenient distractions that rely heavily on the rules of Murphy’s Law. A slight case of style over substance then, but blimey, what sensational style it is!