Shot in one breathtaking 138 minute take, Victoria moves seamlessly through the pulsating, rhythmic vibrations of Berlin, punctuated by the experimental electronic-classical-techno music of Nils Frahm.
Captivating and ambitious on the part of the director, the film relies on infallible acting and camerawork. This was perhaps the reason why the name of the cinematographer, Sturla Brandth Grovlen, preceded the director’s. Working from the bare bones of a script, the actors improvise the majority of the dialogue and reportedly took three tries to get right.
Far from being a gimmick, the improvised nature of this film no doubt adds to the constant feeling of reality. The action develops to become what some may consider far-fetched, but the real emotion of the talented actors transformed the absurd into the believable.
The stunning performance of the lead, Victoria, is given by Laia Costa, who moves effortlessly from the heart-warming and intimate scenes including the initial meeting of the band of Berliners and the burgeoning romance between herself and Sonne, to the thrilling climactic scenes which hit the audience like a bullet from a gun. Victoria is the audience’s chief observer. She is beautifully expressive and her shock mimics the audiences’ as she reacts to the outlandish events of the night. The other characters in Victoria are also strikingly real, going from the joyous, carefree party-friends insistent on showing the “real Berlin”, to the ones we hold on to for dear life as we are propelled into a world of uncertainty, excitement and danger.
Composer, musician, and producer, Nils Frahm, manages to reflect the minimal techno sounds characteristic of Berlin’s club scene whilst adding soft classical notes which accompany every scene with immersive power.
The suspenseful plot and the movement through the modern cityscape of Berlin is comparable to Run Lola Run, also a former champion of the German Film Awards. But Victoria is darker, more visceral, its movements more subtle and its denouement more gut-wrenching.
You celebrate their victories dancing with them in an underground club, you sit impatiently in the back of their stolen car praying for the engine to start, you feel their every heart-stopping hitch until the last breath. Now breathe.
Image: Angelika Ruch; Wikimedia Commons