Reviews - Victoria
Reviewed By Vaughan Ames
Scenes shot in 'one take' have been used to great effect by many directors, including Hitchcock, but a whole film? Are we supposed to be so impressed with such a technical tour de force that we overlook essentials like character and plot development?
We first see Victoria, a Spanish girl who has lived in Berlin for just a couple of months, alone in a nightclub. Four German lads are trying, and failing, to get in as they celebrate a birthday – they have already been celebrating for a while it seems. There is eye contact and something of a smile between Victoria and Sonne, the most sensible of the four and as she leaves the club in the small hours of the morning she meets the group again.
A young girl alone at night in a strange city and four somewhat drunken lads. Already you are apprehensive – where is this going to go? The banter is good natured though and Victoria is happy to tag along. As Sonne pilfers some beer from a sleeping shopkeeper, Victoria is appalled and excited in equal measure and then steals a bag of peanuts herself. Perhaps she is not the innocent we assumed and as she flirts with the edge of the gang's rooftop hideaway, perhaps there is a destructive streak there too.
Throughout this slow build up I was thinking "Get out of there girl. Go home" but there was no real threat to Victoria from Sonne and his mates, Boxer, Blinker and Fuss, the audience had wrongly stereotyped the four, at least in that respect. Nonetheless it is a relief when Victoria says finally goodbye to Sonne, having opened up the cafe where she works.
As the audience is still exhaling with that relief, the tension ratchets up as the film picks up the pace. The gang need a driver to help Boxer repay a debt from his criminal past. Victoria offers to help in this dubious enterprise, despite the collective "No, don't do it" from all of us in the Alhambra.
From that moment the jeopardy levels rise and we share the gang's anxiety, relief, joy and fear as they undertakes this criminal venture out of loyalty to Boxer and which is clearly doomed to spiral into failure. They are an amateur and incompetent bunch of crooks and Victoria is the only one who able to think rationally– chillingly so at times and you wonder just how far she has fallen in such a short time.
The cast worked from just a 12 page script, so the dialogue is largely improvised (in German and English) and perhaps owed too much from cheap American TV during the more frenetic scenes. Nonetheless the principal actors maintain character and an incredible intensity throughout the film.
This was the third time the cast and crew had played out the story. According to the Director, the first was too bland, the second too brutal and the third was exactly what he wanted and what we saw it in its entirety.
The 'one take' film did work. I knew the characters and was hugely engaged in their plight. Knowing that the film was shot in one take, knowing that the clock was ticking down and knowing there was bound to be a denouement made the tension even greater.
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