By Don Simpson | March 8, 2016
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Writers: Sebastian Schipper, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Eike Frederik Schulz
Starring: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, Max Mauff, André Hennicke
At its core, Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria is about the difficulty of making friends in a foreign country and the desperation that could lead someone to make innocent yet bad decisions.
Victoria (Laia Costa) is a Spaniard who works as a barista in Berlin. Her German is not very good; she relies on shaky English to communicate with locals. When we are first introduced to Victoria, she is dancing at a nightclub. It soon becomes obvious that she is at the club alone. She appears equally free and lost.
When Victoria stumbles across a group of local guys who are denied entrance to the club, Schipper’s film begins to contemplate how some women are mesmerized by funny bad guys, presumably because they are entertaining and exciting. She develops a bit of a crush on the de facto leader of the group, Sonne (Frederick Lau), who seems equally interested in Victoria. An unabashedly unconventional love story, Victoria follows how Victoria’s choices and inability to say “no” cause the fateful night in Berlin to spiral out of control.
Although Victoria is on screen practically for the entirety of the 138 minute film, Victoria is much more masculine than feminine. Victoria finds herself engulfed by the inherent stupidity and violence of the masculine world, as Schipper’s film ruminates about the nature of male friendship.
The one, uninterrupted take structure of Victoria is by no means some cheap cinematic device. The structure accentuates the butterfly effect of repercussions that tangentially shoot out from what seem like the simplest of choices. The random surreal twists all seem perfectly natural, especially if you have ever enjoyed an inebriated all-nighter in a foreign city. The tenacious orchestration of the scenes is absolutely astounding; the lucid pauses in which the dialogue drops out and the subtle soundtrack kicks in serve as necessary refrains, adding to the artful poeticism of the film.
There is no doubt whatsoever that this is Laia Costa’s film. She commands the screen for the entirety of the film, which is astronomically more impressive since the film is shot in one unedited take. Costa remains faithfully in character, continuously juggling Victoria’s naiveté and fearlessness. This is one of the bravest performances of recent memory and truly is Costa’s breakout performance.