TIFF 2015: Victoria

Victoria_05

There is a heart-pounding moment in Victoria where Victoria (Laia Costa) and her new friend Sonne (Frederick Lau) find themselves trapped in an apartment complex surrounded by police. The camera follows the panicked pair as they proceed to force their way into one of the residences unaware that the tenant’s wife and newborn baby are home as well. The tension and fear in the air is dense. When Victoria finally makes a decision on how they are going to try and get out of this predicament, one of many they have found themselves in over the course of the night, it becomes clear that there is no turning back. The once innocent party girl has truly reached the point of no return. She must live with the consequences of her choice even if it means risking innocent lives in a process.

The choices people make is one of the driving themes in director Sebastian Schipper’s stunning heist film. Schippper himself makes the boldest one of all by presenting his film in one continuous take. While not the first film to employ this type of technique, no one has been so daring to use it with the crime thriller genre the way Schipper does. The wonderful thing about Schipper’s direction is that the audience often forgets the camera’s presence. As the tension ratchets up, Victoria pulls the viewer further into the plight of its central characters. Similar to the main character herself, the audience feels as if they are part of the team, they feel the same joys and fears that the other characters experience throughout the film.

This is achieved thanks in part to Schipper’s decision to takes his time in establishing the characters. Early on the film divulges that the Spanish nightclubber Victoria has been in Berlin for a few months but does not seem to have made a lot of friends since arriving in the city. When she encounters Sonne and his friends – Blinker (Burak Yigit), Boxer (Franz Rogowski) and Fuss (Max Mauff) – it appears at first to be nothing more than a group of drunken men flirting with a beautiful girl. However, as the night wears on a genuine friendship is formed amongst the five misfits. The film even sells the growing romantic attraction between Victoria and Sonne. By the time a series of unfortunate events leave the guys with no choice but to ask Victoria to be their getaway driver, the situation, and the film itself, feels authentic.

Schipper and his actors do an outstanding job of giving the film a seamless feel. When you factor in all the work required to pull that off, including the actors being able to memorize and improvise the dialogue while hitting their marks in each new location, it is a rather impressive feat. Sure there are occasional moments, such as when the characters get out of a cab, when the viewer becomes aware of the awkward presence of the camera, but these moments are rare. Schipper constructs a film that is not only jaw-dropping in its execution but also thrilling and romantic at the same time.

A brilliant example of how style and substance can take cinema to new heights, Victoria is film that should not be missed.