This extraordinary crime drama explores the rootless, dangerous world of the meaningless life of the twenty-something in modern Berlin, while at the same time providing a captivating story, two enticing lead characters (and two interesting supporting characters). Add to all this that the movie achieved something even Hitchcock could not in Rope: it is all shot entirely in one take. The energy and sense of anticipation this trick provides superbly serve the story, and so the method should not be judged as merely self-absorbed filmmaking. The accomplishment is laudable.

American audiences will not know the actors, though the young girl from whom the film gets its name, will surely appear again. Laia Costa is Spanish and plays Victoria, who has recently come to Berlin from Madrid. She meets up with four men, one of whom is attracted to her and persuades her to join them for late night playful hijinks. The innocence turns dark and dangerous, and choices must be made.

The story holds together even though so much happens in two hours plus of real time. (Remember: if it is all shot in one take, everything happens in order with no cuts representing time to think about things or let them develop.) It is the recipe for a thoughtless disaster, which never happens in Victoria. That is part of its extraordinary triumph.

Costa as Victoria is remarkable at the ad-libbing necessary to pull off her part. Frederick Lau as Sonne, the leader of the pack who falls for Victoria and does his best to protect her, is clearly not as able at the ad-libbing; once or twice, his memory clearly fails him and he just repeats himself, laughing. This, however, just makes the moments feel even more real, and the chemistry between the two, though never consummated sexually, is strong and wonderfully demonstrative of how budding love can be well portrayed without nudity or even sexual innuendo. They are a great cinematic couple, and form the greatest of the achievements of the film.

Another is the solidity of the action sequences near the end of the film, when things get interesting after the crime. By this time the viewer really cares about all these people, and the danger, driven by the hand-held camera cinema verité framing of their movements down alleyways, across parks, into apartment buildings, up stairs, into apartments, etc., is palpable. It is incredible to me that they only had to shoot this thing three times before they got a 2 hour plus “take” that was as good as this.

Though you will have a hard time finding Victoria in the theater, if you can, the ride is well worth it. Unfortunately, though you will leave the theater exhilarated by the experience you have just had, when you think about it, the weight of the lostness of these sad, twenty-somethings, can’t help but crush you. How badly this world needs the gospel… Victoria will make you weep for the misery of the world.

Drew Trotter

November 23, 2015

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