Victoria (Laia Costa) is a twentysomething Spaniard from Madrid who is spending a few months in Berlin, working in a café by day and partying in clubs by night. She doesn't really know anyone there, but is soaking up the atmosphere of the city nonetheless and tonight as she dances she realises it's about time she should be getting to her job for she has to open the place early in the morning. She wanders out of the club and outside to where she has left her bike, but while she is preparing to cycle away a group of four young German men who approached her before approach her again and start to chat her up. She enjoys their attention, and is gradually distracted to the point of spending the next couple of hours with them...
Victoria, the film, happened along at a time when long take scenes were becoming fashionable, possibly influenced by Orson Welles' opening five minutes to Touch of Evil as one of the most celebrated of the art, though in this case there was a scene in Joseph H. Lewis' cult classic Gun Crazy where his two lead actors staged a bank robbery in one take while the cameraman was stationed in the back seat, still a startling sequence to this day for its immediacy and energy. While one take movies were a rarer beast, there had been some examples, Russian Ark the most famous up to this point among the genuine one take movies, not counting works that pretended through careful editing to have been made that way.
Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, for instance, or the Oscar-winning Birdman, were among those faux one takers, but actor turned director Sebastian Schipper's Victoria was the real deal, thanks to advances in technology and digital cameras he could instruct and guide his cameraman (in this case Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, who is top billed in the end credits) to orchestrate his cast for over two hours of movie, and if it was successful the presence of the crew would be invisible and the reality of the situation depicted, however manufactured, was far more convincing than it would have been if it had been assembled in the editing room with a collection of shots. The question remained, however, whether it still held up as a narrative film.
In other words, would you have seen this if it had been more conventional in arrangement and did not possess the gimmick of the single take? It may well have been a moot point, since there was no way this would have garnered the publicity it enjoyed if Schipper and his team had not been pushing back the boundaries of what was essentially a filmed, partially improvised play made on the move in front of one camera. But that plot, though it took a while to crystallise, was carried through partly thanks to the appealing presence of the cute, bouncy Laia Costa who had a quality of making you want to see what she would get up to next, and partly thanks to the storyline harking back not simply to the first great era of heist movies in the fifties, but its major resurgence in the nineties as well where it seemed half the indie crime dramas around were in that style.
Victoria was someone akin to Little Red Riding Hood (and she does indeed wear a red hood at one point) who on her way home was waylaid by the Big Bad Wolf, in this case Sonne (Frederick Lau) who we can tell is patently trouble the nanosecond he hoves into view but his innocent victim doesn't notice, or perhaps doesn’t care. Imagine if Red and the Wolf really got along and wound up deciding to commit crimes together and you'd have some idea of what was unfolding here, only it was bolstered by a tragic turn as well as the thriller angle that developed in the second hour. Costa was considerably more sympathetic than Lau, but you could perceive that was partly by design to render her all the more naïve and in over her head when the circumstances grew dire, and Schipper threw in a selection of bits of business for his cast to get on with to keep the ball rolling, indeed it was a lot like watching a juggling act where if you were not caught up with the peril Victoria was in, you would likely be distracted, on edge even, by what could possibly go wrong production-wise. Rest assured, though events were not smooth for the characters, the shoot went well. Music by Nils Frahm.