Astonishing on a technical level, the single-shot thriller Victoria is a high-wire balancing act of all the cinematic elements that keeps you guessing for two hours and 13 minutes. It’s all rather ridiculous and certainly contrived to within an inch of its life, but when the conviction of the filmmaking is this strong and when the wild-ride desire on the part of the storytellers is this evident, I’m able to set aside any thoughts of implausibility and just go along with it. And here, under the carefully planned and obsessively controlled direction of German filmmaker Sebastian Schipper, the audience is zipped off for a dizzyingly crazy night of crime and punishment, as we follow a young woman named Victoria (the fabulous Laia Costa) who somewhat reluctantly decides to partake in a bank robbery, only to see the heist turn south very quickly, with consequences that she likely never imagined. Set between the hours of 4:30am and 7:00am, the movie feels like an intoxicated blur right from the get-go, with Schipper plunging his audience into the madness of a techno-nightclub with strobe light-techniques that would likely give an epileptic some serious problems. From there, we watch as Victoria meets a random group of up-to-no-good guys, all of whom are wasted and horsing around in the street, some with criminal histories. After saying out loud, repeatedly, that she should just “go home for the night,” she lets her guard down, and joins the group for some unexpected life experiences.
Because Victoria was filmed in one, long, totally unbroken take, there’s a certain breathless quality to most of the film, while in spots, the pacing lags a bit, and you begin to wonder if some spiky editing might have punched up the ebb and flow of the aesthetic. But that was never an option here, clearly. This movie was designed as one of the ultimate one-take-wonders, and make no mistake, if you’re a fan of this sort of technical innovation, your mind will continually be blown over how it was all accomplished. And Costa, who gives a weirdly sympathetic performance despite making some questionable personal decisions, is absolutely mesmerizing to watch; just wait until her “big scene” occurs in the final moments — after all that running and physical exertion, her intense emotional breakdown feels even more pained and reflective. And, in an amazing and totally earned moment of generosity, the first credit to appear on screen after the fade to black was that of the film’s herculean cinematographer/camera operator, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, who along with the rest of the determined crew shot three different takes of the entire film, with the filmmakers deciding to use the last attempt as the final version. Currently streaming on Netflix and available on DVD/Blu-ray.