Beginning with a rush of epileptic, pulsing lights we are introduced to the title character in the one-take wonder of director Sebastian Schipper’s crazy vision. The crux of the film is based upon the outstanding fact that the film is one continuous take: no cuts, no time to breathe. An achievement in both cinematography and reinvention of the action-crime drama, the film’s inconspicuous start of light and dark reflect the literal highs and lows that the characters feel throughout the 134-minute runtime and present a visceral and realistic take of a possibly new style of filmmaking altogether.
Following Victoria from a lonely nightclub to a run-in with a group of bad boys on the wrong side of the law, the film is an endearing and brisk ride that uses its first hour to build the minimal love story between two strangers before thrusting them into a heist and escapade around early-morning Berlin. The nightclubs pop and the streets rustle with early risers, all the while the night sky begins to explode with colours as the sun makes its way into the sky.
This fantastic vision would cease to exist without the virtuosic cinematography of Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, who won for his work on the film at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. The camera dips in and out of cars, runs between cover and scaled buildings, all while keeping the story and action beautiful and fully realized. While some missteps do tend to occur, such as a shaky cam or looking at the wrong subject for a moment, the fact that the film is so easy to follow rests heavily on his (probably sore) shoulders.
While praise is due for the entire cast in bringing the world and vision together, Laia Costa as the Spanish immigrant Victoria takes hold of the film as its emotional and gravitational centre. Her nuanced performance is nigh short of perfect as we see her drunk on the prospect of connection and of breaking out of her manicured shell. As she descends deeper into the Berlin underworld and later into the morning, the pure range of the actress’ performance shines bringing a welcome humanity to the character.
While not a perfect film, Victoria stands as a breath of fresh air in the annual release of the explosion-heavy multi-film brawl that the general audience has come to know for action entertainment. Victoria brings a nuanced, heart-pulling character study about loneliness and desperation, and the same desperation the crew must have felt in trying to complete the film under such strict regulations. Don’t blink or you’ll miss a moment, and you definitely don’t want to miss out on this one.