The single-shot film, where the entire running length is comprised of one continuous take, is still rare enough to be a novelty. Most inclusions to this fairly short list are movies that unfold at a noticeably sedate pace (such as 2000’s Timecode and 2002’s Russian Ark), and the majority of scenes are merely people talking. The complexity of choreographing the actors and camera work for a single-shot film means that making a fairly fast-paced action thriller in this manner has hitherto seemed implausible. Director Sebastian Schipper has not let this stop him, and his film Victoria is the imperfect yet highly compelling final result.
Laia Costa plays Victoria, a young Spanish woman living in Berlin. During a night out in one of the city’s unrelenting nightclubs, she encounters a group of young men. As she becomes drawn into their criminal world, it becomes apparent that their meeting was no accident. The story is not going to win any awards for originality, and it can sometimes feel almost perfunctory: despite the 138-minute runtime, Victoria doesn’t feel like a particularly long movie. The single shot that unfolds in real time creates a distinctive sense of frantic urgency that can be unsettling in the most wonderful way.
It would be so easy for the one-shot design to feel like a gimmick, but the effect still manages to be extremely engaging. The story is necessarily sparse, which works, given the constraints of the method of delivery. Costa is also excellent as Victoria, imbuing the character with a fragility and warmth. The relatability of the lead character is essential when it comes to forgiving the film’s minor flaws. The handheld camera wobbles from time-to-time, and the stilted way in which some scenes unfold is an immediate reminder that the audience is in fact watching a movie. Suspension of disbelief can be difficult to maintain with a complex single-shot sequence. Nonetheless, these are extremely minor quibbles, and Victoria is undeniably a tremendous artistic and technical achievement.
Victoria is released nationwide on 1st April 2016.
Watch the trailer for Victoria here: