Dancing, walking, laughing and shooting their way down the boulevard of broken dreams, Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria is a lyrical one-take wonder.
Dangerous Liaisonsby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
It’s perhaps not new, making a film without a single cut, but it’s hard not to use the term “tour de force” of Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria with its orchestration of night clubs, criminal underworlds and police shoot-outs. Which isn’t to say it’s a film of razor-sharp precision, as was Aleksandr Sokurov’s Russian Ark before it. Instead, Victoria is a meandering odyssey through Central Berlin’s streets, rooftops and hotels until it develops, rather unexpectedly given its fly-on-the-wall camera, into a bank heist thriller – somewhere between Run Lola Run and Shallow Grave. Its free flowing dialogue and fluid plot are entertaining enough, and Schipper even manages a few emotional moments where the actors can finally show their craft rather than stoking the fires of unstoppable drama. But the question still poses itself, wouldn’t a cut here or there lead to a tighter, more involving experience? After all, plenty of editors make a living out of it. But that would of course undermine the glorious feat of the one-cut film. And it’s irresistible – to filmmakers and audiences alike. Nevertheless somehow, Victoria ends up as a warning to “zugezogene” Berliner to steer clear of the locals – just like Victoria’s piano rendition of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz, it’s a dance with the devil. Maybe it’s because the choices Victoria makes are so unlikely, falling so obviously for the wrong guy – her thinly painted love and broken dreams the only possible reasons for her reckless commitment to the bank job. Or maybe because they’re the most hapless, bungling bunch of nobodys you could ever wish to rob you, but Victoria sits awkwardly behind the realism of its no-cut camerawork and the high-concept fiction of its story. But with delicious cinematography, and an impossibly mind-boggling feat of logistics, Victoria succeeds in bringing the magic back into filmmaking.
Victoria was shown at the 65th Berlin Film Festival and is now showing at the 59th London Film Festival