Victoria, played by Laia Costa, is a Spanish woman in her twenties who’s recently moved to Berlin, working in a cafe by day and having a great night in a club at the time when we meet her, but the evening is drawing to a close, and after briefly meeting a man called Sonne (Frederick Lau) inside, she gets chatting to him on her exit, although since he’s following her and not taking no for an answer as she just wants to get home – and given that he’s with three other friends – I would’ve thought that even just *stopping* to talk to this group of drunken blokes out late at night would be a bad idea, so I was surprised that she didn’t just leave at that point…
…but then that would lead to a very short film.
That said, and to hammer the point home, Victoria is way too trusting. She has a slight build and to just head off into the night with four men who could overpower her in a split-second just doesn’t seem the right thing to do, especially when one of them has spent time in prison, and that’s just from the one who’s admitting to his past.
You’ll notice that I’ve not gone into any detail about the plot beyond the first few minutes. Well, I will say that it feels like it takes around 50 minutes to set the scene before it gets into the meat of the story, but you realise that those 50 minutes are necessary, and you’ll just have to trust me that the entire film is worth all 139 minutes of your time.
When I first heard about this movie being shot in one take, I figured that’s not at all possible for a 139-minute film. Birdman had a few obvious joins between shots, and that one ran for a minute under two hours, but I couldn’t spot any of those here. However, I thought that if they’re going to shoot over more than one night, then what they also have to do battle with in the filming of Victoria is light – the film starts at some point late into the night, not long from early morning, and by the time it ends, it’s of an hour when most people will be going out to work, so the rise of the sun is something they have to deal with, and so you can only shoot between certain times, rather like The Revenant looking for its ‘golden hour’ to get the visuals the director intended (and with Revenant and Birdman, is that the first time I’ve compared a film to two films where those others are made by the same director? – in this case, Alejandro G. Iñárritu – quite possibly)
I figured the one-take aspect also can’t be possible, especially since, as they get out of a taxi, there appears to be no passenger door attached, but as it drives off, it suddenly has one. Alfonso Cuarón’s Children Of Men had startlingly-clever, long one-take scenes including one where four characters are in a car and the camera swings round impossibly, and it was impossible because there was no roof on the car with CGI filling it in later, but this isn’t the kind of film to have such a budget for all that.
However, Wikipedia confirmed it WAS shot in one take, and my flabber has been well and truly ghasted. Apparently, and at the actions of cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, filming took places from approx 4.30am to 7am on 27th April 2014, in the Kreuzberg and Mitte neighbourhoods. The director, Sebastian Schipper, completed the filming in three attempts – so, it’s like they had a couple of run-ups at it initially, but to achieve that feat AND make not only a watchable film but also a very engaging one, is quite something. It turns out the script was just 12 pages long, with most of the dialogue being improvised. However, to get the funding, the director had to promise an alternative ‘jump cut’ version if they couldn’t achieve the final intended version. He made one, but later stated that it was “not good”.
It’s difficult to make a coherent, well-told film at the best of times, but to shoot it in one take? I think everyone involved can give themselves the biggest pat on the back possible and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and is as pin-sharp as you’d expect, and another reason that I didn’t think it was made in one take was because I can’t ever see a scene that’s out of focus. The late-night/early morning Berlin locations look stunning and I’d love to visit where the film was made. Also, I’m watching this on a 50″ Panasonic Plasma TV, the film playing from a PS4.
The audio is in DTS HD 5.1, and there’s some split-surround in the general audio as they walk about Berlin. The dialogue from each character moves about the speakers depending on where they’re positioned, as the camera moves about all the time – not in a distracting way, but so as to highlight various aspects.
The extras are few but are as follows:
- Casting Scenes: One each with Frederick Lau (Sonne) and Burak Yigit (Blinker) (4:19), and a longer one with Lau and Laia Costa (Victoria) (7:24). It’s a bit odd that these weren’t all part of the same near-12-minute title, but either way, I love things like this as it’s the kind of unique scenes that would otherwise get left on a reel in an office, somewhere, never to be seen again.
- Camera Test (10:14): As well as the actors being prepared for a one-take movie – this one featuring Lau, Yigit and Franz Rogowski (Boxer), so have the crew, hence the title of this extra.
- Trailer (2:00): In the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio.
- Audio commentary: with director Sebastian Schipper.
The main menu just has an on/off option for English subtitles, while from within the film itself, you find you’re on the second subtitle track which puts all the dialogue in English, including any spoken that way. Track one omits any English dialogue’s subtitles (although it’s best keeping them on whilst in the club, at least), and the third is for the audio commentary. Actually, I say it’s best keeping to the second subtitle track for the club because it’s noisy in there, but quite honestly, when they’re changing between languages within a scene, from one sentence to another, it’s easier to have them on all the time. Often, dramas like Borgen and Follow The Money drop in some English dialogue, so it’s disconcerting when the subtitles disappear as it can take a moment to realise they’ve dropped back into English!
There are just 12 chapters to the film and the menu also features clips of the film in the background set amongst an image of Ms Costa’s lovely visage and the music of Nils Frahm‘s Them, from the soundtrack.
Running time: 139 minutes
Released: January 11th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: German, English, Spanish
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Canon H.264 (1080p/24))
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Producers: Catherine Baikousis, Jan Dressler, David Keitsch, Anatol Nitschke, Sebastian Schipper and Christiane Dressler
Screenplay: Sebastian Schipper, Olivia Neergaard-Holm and Eike Frederik Schulz
Music: Nils Frahm
Victoria: Laia Costa
Sonne: Frederick Lau
Boxer: Franz Rogowski
Blinker: Burak Yigit
Fuß: Max Mauff
Andi: André M Hennicke
Barkeeper: Eike Frederik Schulz
Taxifahrer: Hans Ulrich Laux
Junge Mutter: Anna Lena Klenke
Junger Vater: Philipp Kubitza
SEK 1: Martin Goeres
SEK 2: Andreas Schmittka
Hooligan kurze Haare: Jan Breustedt
Hooligan lange Haare: David Micas
Zivilfahnder 1: Timo Honsa
Zivilfahnder 2: Bernd Weikert
Kioskverkäufer: Adolfo Assor
Baby: Ansgar Ballendat
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.