I’m in a debate with myself whether or not to gush over this film. The problem with gushing is that it will quickly lose the review part of the title, so bear in mind I have only just seen this film and this is a complete brash first view of it. With that in mind, this is one of the best films I have ever seen. It is certainly one of the best films I’ve seen in a while, and I could see it slotting above my top 10 of 2016 (not sure what year this film fits into). And the only reason I say this, is because I have had an instant bond with it; a feeling I only get with only certain films.
To describe too much of the plot of the film would be not be spoiling the experience, but I fit in the general opinion that you should go in as blind as possible for this film. It is not like there is some daft twist or massive spoiler to avoid, the film just escalates to places that you might not expect from the start. The basic premise revolves around the titular character ‘Victoria’, played by Spanish actress Laia Costa, who works the early shift at a cafe in Berlin. Before her shift, she goes to a dingy underground club on her own, and meets a group of native Berlin men who from there she spends the rest of the night with. And then the snowball starts rolling. Yet, the camera has been rolling from the breathtaking strobe lighting cold open, and has not cut away once, as this 138 minute film is done in one shot.
The one shot technique is the massive camera elephant in the room here, because it is the main reason for the films infamy. For me, it is just top of the list of the many points on why this film is brilliant. The camera is less present in the action and more active in it, it is effectively an extra character or a third eye. It follows the scenery seamlessly, and there is no trickery done to fool the audience, it is a full one shot. And it doesn’t just bring beauty or spectacle, it brings depth. The protagonist Victoria is very much the centre of this film, and this is obvious in the camera movement, so there is this wonderful thing of the spectator camera jostling for poll position against her. It’s like when she is of camera, the mise-en-scene longs for her to be back on it. The one shot mastery is of course mesmerising, with every bit of the plot falling into place, and honestly it is the most exhilarating feeling as it hovers around all the action.
However all of that is not why I love the film. It’s not the incredible cinematography or interesting setting, or building plot-line, but like with many films that I love, it is the chemistry between the characters. Never have I seen a relationship build and flow as the plot does and never have I emotionally connected to it so quickly. The leader of the gang that Victoria bumps into is called ‘Sonne’, played by Frederick Lau, and at first I was weary of him. I was worried for Victoria and wondered what Sonne’s motives were. Thought that was quickly defused, due to the strength of both their characters. Victoria is a question mark throughout the whole film, full of surprises, and Sonne is layered with problems that become more and more clear as the film goes on. Together, they are heart wrenching, coming closer and closer to a romantic climax. They talk and interact so fluidly and suddenly the chemistry is bouncing off them. I’m about as pathetic as they come with romance in film and I cherished every moment they were in a two-shot.
This film is a joy to watch, and that 138 minutes flies by. It is visually impactful on so many levels and the way the camera moves with the characters really is something to be amazed by. Each person in the film feels real, and the relationships between them are intense and touching. Instantly this film has slotted amongst some of my favourite of all time. To put it amongst a sample of some of my favourite films ever; it has the romantic charm of ‘Annie Hall’, the interest of ‘Taxi Driver’, and the spectacle of ‘Primer’. If you want to graduate to a next level of film or really feel something special for a piece of art, Victoria is a great place to begin that journey.
Side-note: In the second paragraph I say ‘cold open’ and it’s not actually a cold open, it just made for a better sentence.