Fantastic Fest: In single take, 'Victoria' tells heart-pounding heist story

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Adopt Film

In this 138 minutes heist movie, the plot is captured in one uninterrupted take. Much like 2013’s “Gravity,” the film’s major accomplishment has become a major selling point – and is even mentioned on official posters. However, unlike “Gravity,” “Victoria” manages to provide an excellent story that matches its impressive technical specs.

With a stunning performance from its eponymous star and a chaotic, intriguing tale about a night in Berlin gone wrong, “Victoria” provides an exciting and heartbreaking ride that is every bit as outstanding as its camerawork.

Victoria (Laia Costa) is winding down from a long night of clubbing when she runs into a group of friends who are immediately smitten with her. After getting to know them, especially the nervous Sonne (Fredrick Lau), she finds herself roped into a job that the gang will perform. This “job” turns out to be a bank heist for a dangerous gangster, and Victoria soon discovers that this small hit on a bank leads to dangerous consequences.

It’s only fitting to discuss the much-hyped camerawork exhibited in “Victoria.” The single long take certainly is masterfully performed. Director Sebastian Schipper intricately plans every movement so that the camera moves freely without a hint of interference. Every beat occurs in a single, fluid motion without a misstep. Though Schipper uses some noticeable special precautions to keep the camera moving — such as making sure late-night Berlin has little traffic — the results immediately justify any suspensions of disbelief.

It’s also amazing just how many different set pieces Schipper squeezes into his single-take run through urban Berlin. He takes the audience through a tour of pulsing nightclubs, seedy parking garages, lonely cafes and exquisite hotels. It’s a breathtaking ride that serves as an ironic juxtaposition, as the characters travel through these glorious locales while panicked and on the run. When it could have been easier to film in a couple of safer, yet visually boring areas, it’s satisfying to see the filmmakers take such an incredible leap of faith.

The phenomenal camerawork doesn’t come off as the only worthwhile aspect of “Victoria.” The simple story of a group of kids forced to commit a crime to pay back debts is compelling, and no moment of its long runtime feels stale or uninteresting. There’s an interesting mix of quiet, tender moments between Victoria and the boys and action-packed moments featuring drug use and shoot-outs. This mixture creates a fine heist thriller that’s neither a confusing mess of sounds nor a boring film too concerned with meaningless dialogue.     

The performances are also astounding, considering the actors had to ad lib the majority their lines on the fly as the camera danced around them. Costa shines as the bubbly, nice Victoria. She nails the transformation from innocent party girl to harden criminal on the run for her life. Lau is also great as the love-stricken criminal that bonds with her. He’s easily the most sympathetic of the criminals aside for Victoria.

Although the other members of the gang aren’t nearly as developed, they are still humorous guys who display a shocking regression into panicked bank robberies.

While “Victoria” will undoubtedly be memorable because of its achievements in cinematography, it also deserves to be applauded for its strong story and great performances. An entertaining heist film that focuses on a sympathetic, energetic lead, “Victoria” stands as an ambitious highlight that pulls no punches.

Victoria

  • Director: Sebastian Schipper
  • Runtime: 138 minutes
  • Rating: 8/10 Pianos