Directed by: Sebastian Schipper
Distributed by: Adopt Films
Written by Jeff Sparks
Every so often there’s a film that boasts the accomplishment of appearing to have been filmed in a single take. In most cases, the reality is that there were multiple takes edited together to look continuous to the naked eye. More often than not this is simply a gimmick and doesn’t add much to the film. “Victoria” is one of the few to not only make good use of this device but a rare example of having actually been filmed in one long take rather than being made to give off that illusion. In “Victoria” Laia Costa stars as the titular character. After a night of dancing and drinking, she heads toward home before deciding to continue partying with a group of men that she meets. When the group finds themselves in trouble she participates in a series of crimes that sends the night into chaos. The film also stars Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, and Burak Yigit.
Running at 138 minutes, we see Victoria’s story unfold in real-time. These 138 minutes are a snippet of her life that the camera allows us to peer into. The film opens in a flashing blur with bodies bouncing and shaking before we settle on one dancer who we soon realize is our titular character. Besides, when she tells Sonne (Lau) that she used to be in a conservatory, we know nothing about her life before or after what we see in these two and a half hours. During this time we see her transform from a friendly party girl to a dangerous criminal. In a largely improvised turn, Laia Costa stuns in this role. The handheld camera puts us in a position that immerses us into this slice of her life. From the vibrant dance sequences to the more relaxed hangout scenes to the escalation of violence toward the end of the film the camera matches the intensity of Victoria’s emotions, whether it’s capturing her reactions to what’s happening around her by focusing on her or not.
Besides the dedicated performance from Costa and the immersive cinematography, the use of time wisely structures “Victoria.” Taking place from 4:30am to 7:00am we are a spectator to the entirety of this slice of Victoria’s day. During this time she dances, parties, makes new friends, becomes a criminal, witnesses death, and sets out to start a new life. No character in most movies would experience this amount of things let alone in one that takes place in real time. As each second ticks by Victoria’s story grows larger while simultaneously getting closer to its end. The single take allows none of her decisions to be glossed over, none of her actions to be skipped, and none of her personal experience during this time to be misinterpreted. There are no blanks in “Victoria” and there is no exposition for you to use to answer your own questions. The story is what you see as it unfolds.
With a limited budget, Sebastian Schipper and company only had three days of shooting to get it right. On the first two nights, the crew completed two versions of the film that used jump cuts to simulate the long take. Costa felt that they achieved the desired result in the second cut, but Schipper believed the only way to do it was to film it all in one single take that was completed on the third and last night. Originally compared to “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” when it came out, “Victoria” still stands tall in the best uses of the one shot whether that be for the entirety of the film or just certain sequences. Other uses, such as the more popular “1917” contain continuity errors that lessen the impact of this style of storytelling. All films have to account for these types of errors but these one-shot films in particular rely on their timing and spacing to maintain believability. “Victoria’s” use of one single shot makes it an immersive and realistic experience that proves a small hand-crafted film can achieve more in a difficult style of filmmaking than any Hollywood movie can.