Victoria is a love story, a heist drama, an experiment in filmmaking and a reason not to talk to boys in clubs, all in one two and a half hour film.
The film is directed by Sebastian Schipper, and it follows Victoria, a Spanish girl living in Berlin, over the course of one night. Upon leaving a nightclub, she meets a group of four men, and begins a flirtation with one of them, Sonne. They promise to show her the real Berlin, but the night takes a sharp downward turn when they reveal that they are in trouble, and ask for her help.
It’s a fast-paced and dramatic film, which tells what is perhaps a slightly tired story in an interesting way. In large part, this is because of the filmmaking technique. While Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s film Birdman was famously made to look as though it was all shot in one take, Victoria, astonishingly, actually was. The camera follows the title character continuously, from the club to a rooftop to a bank and beyond, in a feat of filmmaking which must have been utterly exhausting for everyone involved. The viewer’s heart goes out to the poor cameraman. This technique gives the film a hyper-realistic vibe, not only in the moments of action, but particularly in the moments between them – the long stretches of time in elevators or cars, when the film would usually cut away. It’s action-packed, but there is still time for these quiet moments, as unescapable here as they are in real life.
As a result of this technique, the film is also largely improvised. According to the director, they had twelve pages of script that outlined the general story, and the dialogue was left up to the actors. They did an extraordinarily good job of this, and it is another thing which adds to the life-like feel of the piece – there are no dramatic monologues or overly emotive scenes, but instead, just natural conversation between the characters. Or natural for their situations, anyway, which are dramatic enough on their own.
While in some ways the story is a familiar one, Schipper does bring modern, relevant ideas to it, elevating it a bit beyond a classic heist film. Victoria, for example, is a classically trained pianist, who practiced seven hours a day for sixteen years and sacrificed her entire identity, only to be told that she was not good enough, and would never be successful in her art. In many ways, this reflects the current struggle that young people face, as we are increasingly well-educated and well-trained, and yet remain uncertain as to whether we will be able to find gainful employment, whether we will ever be successful.
Overall, it’s an engaging film which pushes the boundaries of filmmaking technique without making this its only drawcard. We may have all seen heist films before, but they probably weren’t done like this.