While Birdman was lauded for its innovation and resourceful nature, awarded with the top prize on offer in the world of film; the Academy Award for Best Picture – Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria has done much of the same thing, and you could argue, has produced a more thrilling, captivating feature, that has matched Iñárritu‘s ambition with a deft, accomplished execution.
We begin in a nightclub, where our eponymous protagonist (Laia Costa) is dancing alone. Deciding to call it a night – knowing that she has to open up the cafe at 7am, she is distracted on her way home, by the confident (drunk) Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his three obnoxious, if charming friends. They manage to persuade the young Spanish woman to spend some time with them, purchasing some drinks from a local convenience store, and then heading off to their favourite hangout; a rooftop overlooking the city of Berlin. As the flirting between Victoria and Sonne becomes more intense, her affections find her drawn into a perilous, life-threatening set of events, when the thuggish Boxer (Franz Rogowski) reveals he needs to repay a debt to a friend from prison, tonight. Problem is, they’re one short – and Victoria’s assistance is required.
Set across just one night, in real time, Victoria is shot in one single take – taking only three attempts to complete this two and a quarter hour production. Bearing similarities to Run Lola Run, Schipper was in fact in the aforementioned endeavour, now bringing his talents to the big screen from behind the camera as opposed to in front of it. He manages to play so heavily on realism in the opening stages, with improvised dialogue for the most part, ensuring we’re instantly on board, and abiding by the narrative and characters at hand. It’s imperative this be the case too, as when we dive straight into the more theatrical, melodramatic sequences, we’re already invested.
The unsteady, hand-held camera work used throughout also helps to take the viewer to the heart of the action. Though it can become somewhat dizzying in parts, it puts us in the scene to make for an immersive experience. Like the way we stumble into the lift with the characters, or we lower our vision too to get into the back seat of the car – we become the fifth accomplice. You almost wish we were stepping in to help the boys out too, if it means preventing Victoria from getting involved, such is the emotional connection formed between the character and viewer. I’s helped along too by Costa’s on-screen presence, as such an absorbing performer who demands our attention from the moment we’re first introduced to her.
However question marks do remain as to whether the film’s single-take gimmick is glossing over what is quite a conventional thriller. The creativity on show certainly elevates this above your typical film in this genre, adding something new and ingenious – but ultimately, Victoria is quite generic from a narrative point of view. Effectively, we’re dealing with a very normal thriller, but told is a distinctively abnormal way.