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Victoria - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

Apparently not to be outdone by last year's Birdman, the majority of which appeared to be presented in a single take, now German director Sebastian Schipper gives us Victoria, which actually was shot in one single take. There are no clever transitions here, such as the camera panning to the sky so we can see light turn to dark; this entire film plays in real time. For 134 minutes.

This has the curious effect of making Victoria both amazing and, for about the first half of the film, a little dull. It opens in a dance club, where we meet Victoria (Laia Costa, the one astounding performer here). We see her meander off the dance floor, go to the bar, flirt with the bartender to no avail. Soon enough, she encounters a group of four guys, with whom she winds up spending the next couple hours of the early morning.

The first of those hours is just this group of people hanging out, shooting the shit, getting to know each other. We do learn some very key information relevant to the action that goes down in the second half, such as the guy who did time in prison. Victoria ultimately has to go to her cafe where she works to open it up for her shift that morning, and all these guys take her there. This after they all walk around town, through the streets, even hanging out for a bit on a building rooftop.

The only problem is that this is all done in real time. Unlike Birdman, which kept things interesting with crackling dialogue and a healthy dose of cinematic stylization, Victoria has no such flourishes. It's just a straightforward take, camera following these characters as their story unfolds. This means, in spite of a valiant effort to make the characters interesting, a lot of lulls. To be fair, it also makes all of their fates that much more poignant in the end after having gotten to know them in this unusually intimate way.

Victoria herself comes across as rather wide-eyed and naive in the beginning. To this movie's credit, none of these guys she befriends turns out to be villainous or take advantage of her in any deliberate way. Victoria gets caught up in their situation by accident, because one of the guys, who is celebrating a birthday, is too drunk. They have a favor to return to the guy who provided protection to the aforementioned guy in prison, and Victoria offers to help them. She'll drive the car. Eventually we find out that this favor involves robbing a bank.

In the midst of all this is also Sonne (Frederick Lau), the leader of this pack of friends, with whom Victoria has also made an unexpected emotional connection. Usually a romantic element in a story like this would feel awkwardly grafted on, but here it feels natural. By the end, both Sonne and Victoria have gone through some heavy shit.

It just takes so long to get there! Once the action kicks in, Victoria is genuinely gripping, but the movie is nearly half over by the time that happens. This would be a lot easier to take if the movie's total run time were at minimum half an hour shorter. Anyone seeing Victoria will be amazed by these unbroken performances that occur in truly genuine real time, but few audiences are going to have the patience for how long it takes. I did, and that allowed me to enjoy the movie fairly well, but I can't think of any casual movie-goer for whom this would be a logical recommendation.

Laia Costa makes and loses friends in real time in VICTORIA.

Overall: B
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