Synopsis: Single-take German thriller in which a young Spanish woman (Laia Costa) meets a group of local men in Berlin and becomes involved in a bank robbery
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Starring: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigi
Release date: April 1
Running time: 138 mins
The tag-line for Victoria says it all: “One girl. One city. One night. One take.”
Incredibly, this pulse-pounding thriller from German director Sebastian Schipper unfolds in a single 138 minute shot, spanning 22 locations across the city of Berlin, with the actors improvising from a 12 page script outline.
However, in contrast to the likes Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, which used digital trickery to achieve the same effect, Schipper’s film is entirely unfaked – the director and his cast shot the entire film three times and used the best take. The results are simply astonishing, making this one of the best films of the year.
A terrifying turn
The film begins in the early hours of the morning as Spanish waitress Victoria (Laia Costa) exits a Berlin nightclub and bumps into a group of local men, sparking an instant attraction with the charming Sonne (Frederick Lau).
For an hour or so, Victoria tags along with the men as they take her to their favourite roof-top hang-out, and she, in turn, shows Sonne the cafe where she works.
However, the night suddenly takes a terrifying turn when the gang are forced to commit a bank robbery in order to pay back a vicious gangster, and Sonne convinces Victoria to act as their getaway driver.
On the surface, the single-take technique might seem like a gimmick, but it serves the story perfectly – cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grovlen’s extraordinary camerawork provides a thrillingly immersive experience so that you’re there for every second of Victoria’s rollercoaster journey, from the first glimmers of flirtatious romance to the nail-biting heist sequence and the unbearably tense aftermath.
Schipper’s direction is extremely accomplished throughout, effectively pulling off a seamless series of genre switches, but giving each story equal dramatic and emotional weight, so that the early section has all the charm and intimacy of, say, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (there’s a beautiful, tender moment involving a piano that comes out of nowhere and is utterly charming).
The heist section and subsequent fall-out, meanwhile, could be straight out of a Michael Mann movie.
In addition to the jaw-dropping technical achievement, Schipper has cast the film to perfection.
Laia Costa is terrific as Victoria, bringing just a hint of loneliness (she has no friends in the city) and boredom to the role, so that you fully understand why she makes her seemingly rash decisions.
She also sparks genuinely sweet chemistry with Lau, who’s equally superb and whose performance and physicality occasionally bring to mind a very young Marlon Brando. On top of that, there’s colourful support from Franz Rogowski and Burak Yigit as Boxer and Blinker, Sonne’s two best friends.
Combining stunning technical achievement with a thoroughly gripping story and terrific performances, this is a sensational thriller that demands to be seen. Unmissable.