Victoria is a German film that was disqualified from competing for an Oscar this year because of its high percentage of English dialogue (because you know, unless a foreign film fits within the confines of actually being ‘foreign language’ then it’s pretty much discredited across the board). Regardless, it did win six awards at the 2015 German Film Awards including Best Film and Best Direction.
You may have heard of it already – it’s become notable for being shot in one continuous take. Now of course other films have claimed to do this in the past, most famously Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and more recently 2014’s Birdman, but what makes Victoria feel more special is that there are no telling moments in which it’s clearly trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Both aforementioned films that claimed this did not actually achieve it, subtly using a darkly lit scene here or there to cut and switch without obviously giving it away – though the end result in Rope was a somewhat jarring experience.
Here the film goes by at such a finely balanced pace – and at 138 minutes long it really needed to be – that such pauses would be even more detrimental to your overall enjoyment; said realisation goes to show the decision to make Victoria in this way is not the simple ‘gimmick’ or marketing ploy that some may accuse it of.
Victoria herself, the central character of the film, is a Spanish girl who recently moved to Berlin, works in a cafe and doesn’t speak German. While partying at a night club until 4am (at which point we meet her), she meets a group of four young men who are denied entry due to having no money. One of these young men, Sonne (played by veteran German actor Frederick Lau), appears to take a liking to Victoria and she ends up joining them in various antics for the following half hour.
From there the movie continues as an intimate ensemble between these characters, primarily Victoria and Sonne, before heading in a drastically different direction towards the second half that one can’t help but find themselves caught up in alongside this likeable – if slightly morally suspect – group.
Personally however, I found the final third of the movie falters a little when it comes to certain character actions and motivations. If there is any point at which the experience threatens to go off-balance, this is it – a couple of misjudged narrative moments prevent the film from becoming an instant all-round classic.
Aside from that, it’s hard to find fault in anything else Victoria does. Its ‘one shot’ achievement really is stunning; there is a moment not far into the movie that illustrates this perfectly, in which Victoria begins playing the piano and launches into an immaculate performance that you don’t see coming. Sonne, sitting at her side, is left speechless. For most of the time spent watching this extraordinary movie, you will be too.
9 / 10