I really enjoy putting my reviews together. I honestly wish I could delve deeper into certain movies, but alas, I get incredibly busy and can sometimes only deal with movies to a briefer extent than I would prefer. This is why I write these occasional "Brief Thoughts" posts on movies I have seen, as I want to at least offer some of my own perspective on them. They may not be as polished, but I can at least get my opinions out there. This brief thought is focused on the German film 'Victoria'.
Victoria: 5 out of 5
It is one thing to have massive appreciation for a film, but it is completely different when I find myself trying to actually think of what issues there could be. Victoria is an exceptional piece of work, as it takes a filmmaking approach that could be seen as a gimmick and makes it into so much more, thanks to the tremendous work from the actors and skill involved in the film's presentation.
Set in Berlin, the film takes place between the hours of 4 AM and 7 AM and is composed entirely of a single take. Obviously there will be some skeptics wondering if this 138-minute film, which involves characters moving in and out of buildings, up and down stairs and ladders, as well as car and elevator travel, is even possible. According to director Sebastian Schipper and everyone involved, there were three attempts to shoot this film and they got it all the third time. I am inclined to believe this story, but it really should not matter.
Getting past the thought of how difficult a film like this would be to accomplish, it is what we are seeing that matters most and what I saw was an extraordinary amount of care put into having the audience follow a character for a lengthy period of time, as she ends up in a scenario that becomes increasingly intense. At the same time, this is a film that examines the idea of a dark underbelly hiding beneath the surface of a seemingly innocuous area, let alone what it means to be alone in the world and seemingly under-praised for your talents, only to be pushed to a new edge.
Victoria stars Laia Costa as Victoria, a woman from Spain who has moved to Berlin and encounters a group of men, after a night of dancing. The men invite her to walk along with them and while I am not going to go into any further details plot-wise, I will say this first 45 minutes is a great way to set us up for what will happen next. It is about understanding who everyone is and connecting with them to some degree.
One could look at film and the process of editing as the reason this art form can be so effective in having them appreciate the separation of time from whatever circumstances characters get into. While it has no edits, Victoria does fall into this pattern as well, but from a different perspective. Rather than jump to key moments, this film wants you to sit in every moment and really feel the effect of the time passing, as you are immersed into the world this film exists in.
It is because of this lengthy prologue that is very natural and less 'eventful' that you should be able to grasp why certain decisions are made later on. It is a tricky proposition when you introduce elements involving key choices that need to be made in a matter of seconds, but Victoria sells this idea. The performances from Costa and others, namely Frederick Lau as Sonne, are effectively matched with what the film aspires to accomplish and the results are fantastic.
There are also plenty of highlights to be found in the filmmaking. Beyond just the camera operating, which was no doubt incredibly complicated, work involving the sudden bursts of score that occur, the heavy-lifting to involve so many moving parts in a film like this and just the nature of the setting all add to how engrossing this film is.
Victoria is a drama-thriller that completely nails what it is presenting the viewer. It is a rewarding watch that benefits from complete focus, as you are essentially a member of the group that goes on a 2 hour-plus journey. The narrative is not exactly one-of-a-kind, but it is a film like this that can show you just how fresh new takes on familiar material can turn into something magnificent. Victoria is a truly great accomplishment and should be sought out for others to appreciate.