“No, it’s not amazing… I don’t know. I’ve been sixteen and a half years practicing playing the piano. every day, like seven hours every day. Seven is the maximum. You cannot play more, because you’re gonna hurt your arms. And it’s a really hard life, because you have no… you have no life. You have no friends. Well, the friends are like the other guys that are in the conservatory… but they are not your friends really. They’re like your enemies. Because they are fighting for your dream too.”
‘Victoria’, directed by Sebastian Schipper in 2015, is a German suspense drama set in Berlin. The title character is a young Spanish girl who one night whilst clubbing ends up being drawn into a small gang of criminals. Together they rob a bank, with Victoria as the getaway driver. Pursued by police they race through the city. The first thing to say about this movie is the most obvious – like ‘Russian Ark’, ‘Victoria’ was filmed in one, unbroken take. Filming took place over the course of two and a half hours in April 2014, it took three attempts to get the final version. Where it differs from ‘Russian Ark’ is in the fact it has a strong, conventional plot. With the Russian film, the unbroken take becomes an inseparable part of the movie, the camera becoming an invisible extra character, haunting the halls of the Hermitage. In ‘Victoria’, the director takes a more improvised, documentary approach. This makes the German film no less immersive than ‘Russian Ark’, but for different reasons. You quickly get used to the unusual way of filming, and the single take approach instead gives you the feeling of being lost in a maze, both physical in terms of the city, and metaphorical in terms of the twists of the plot. The performances are altered by the method as well – by the climax of the film you get the impression that the actors themselves are fatigued. ‘Russian Ark’ was choreographed, stylised, and theatrical, ‘Victoria’ was rough, frantic, improvised. Together the different approaches offer the perfect example of a gimmick that has been used intelligently to become part of the film.
Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s a kinetic and thrilling suspense movie. The performances are powerful and the twist of the single take perfectly contributes to the content of the film. Watch in a double bill with ‘Russian Ark’ for a second perspective on what digital filmmaking can achieve.