Photo courtesy of Senator Films
“One Girl. One City. One Night. One Take.” This is the tagline for “Victoria”, German director Sebastian Schipper’s fourth film. Unlike last year’s “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”, “Victoria” was actually filmed in one long shot, without any editing tricks. While this may seem like a gimmick, the film manages to get great performances from its actors and reels the audience in for an unforgettable adventure.
“Victoria” is the story of a Spanish woman, of the same name, who has been working in Berlin for three months. The opening shot of the film is set in a nightclub. Victoria is seen dancing the night away in the strobe lights. Soon, she exits the club and meets a group of young German men. Flattered by their flirtations, she spends the night with them. What starts out as an innocent night out, soon takes a dark turn for the worse.
Technically speaking, “Victoria” is a masterpiece. It is incredible to think that this film, which has a lengthy runtime of two hours and 18 minutes, could be shot in one take. The amount of time and energy it would take to make sure locations are ready and that actors hit their marks is inconceivable.
In an interview with collider.com, Schipper explains why he wanted to make such an ambitious film. “It seems like every music you listen to is a reproduction of something you have heard somewhere else. So many books read like you’ve read them before. And so many films especially feel like films you’ve seen before. I wanted to get away from that.”
Apart from the cinematography, which has received the most praise, the acting is a point to be discussed. When the actors were approached for this project, the director gave them a 12-page script, which is minuscule for a two-hour plus movie. Rather than have the actors memorize every line, which would be needed to maintain the one continuous take, the actors were told to improvise. Improvisation can be difficult and can often come across as disingenuous. However, watching the film, the audience would never know that the acting is almost completely spontaneous. There is one scene in particular where the characters are starting to open up to each other. It is very moving and amazing to realize that the conversation was off the cuff.
While “Victoria” is an amazing achievement in cinema, it is not without its faults. Because the film was shot in one take, it takes places in real time, between the hours of 4:00 AM and 6:30 AM. This is a problem because the pacing is uneven. For the first 45 minutes, nothing is really happening. No conflict has arisen; it’s essentially just walking and talking. When something does finally happen, it’s very quick and some might say unsatisfying. That being said, the last hour of the movie is very tense and rivals most crime thrillers.
“Victoria” is an exceptional accomplishment in the cinema world. Shooting a movie in one take is a daunting task and Schipper, with the help of his cinematographer Sturla Grovlen (who deservingly receives top billing in the credits), totally nail it. The fact that there are other bonuses, like phenomenal acting, is the cherry on top. Even with its pacing issues, “Victoria” is a groundbreaking, instant classic that will be talked about for years to come.