One of the charm in going to film festival is coming across movies I’ve never heard of and/or would normally paid no mind to. There is a certain pleasure in going blind, and that’s what happened with Victoria. I watched it simply because my festival partner said we should, and was pleasantly surprised by it.
Three months after she moved to Berlin, Victoria (Laia Costa) still got no friends. Until she met Sonne (Frederick Lau), Boxer (Franz Rogowski), Blinker (Burak Yigit), and Fuss (Max Mauff) on a nightclub and quickly formed a camaraderie with them. That’s why she agreed to filled in for Fuss – who had fallen unconscious – and drove them to a meeting with Boxer’s acquaintance.
And that’s how her life got turned upside down.
In a way, Victoria reminded me of Boyhood. The premise was simple and intriguing, but not exactly novel. The story was engaging, but not exceptional and so were the characters – none of them actually stood out. It would’ve been a run of the mill movie if not for one production detail. In Boyhood, it was the fact that the movie was shoot in the span of 12 years with the same actors. In Victoria, it was the fact that it was shot in one single long take from 4.30 a.m to 7 a.m. To call the idea outrageous would’ve been an understatement, but Sebastian Schipper and Sturla Brandth Grøvlen made it looked effortless. And their result was one grounded slice of life. So grounded that at times I forgot it was a work of fiction and not a documentary of a real turns of event.
The documentary feel, in turn, give a sense of realness that works really well with the down to earth story. Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Sebastian Schipper and Eike Frederik Schulz opted out of needless dramatization or groundbreaking twist. Instead they weave out an ordinary story that plays out the way it’s supposed to be, making it oh-so-believable. So effective that if someone come up to me and tell me that Victoria actually is a true story, I would believe them in a heartbeat. Having merely 12 pages of script with mostly improvised dialogues made the interactions, chemistry, and relationship development all the more organic. They’re awkward and even unappealing at times, but isn’t that the case with some of our daily interactions?
In the acting department, both Laia Costa and Frederick Lau soared as the two main leads. Laia Costa’s Victoria is attractive, yes, but it was the way her character tone shifts from time to time that really got me. She’s shy and adorable at first, confused but put on a calm and brave facade when needed to, until she breaks under the pressure and all of her emotions burst through. All in the course of 2,5 hours. While Frederick Lau’s Sonne was just endearing. He gave off an asshole-ish vibe at first, but grew more likeable and dependable throughout the movie. Franz Rogowski’s Boxer was simply annoying, the kind that I dislike at first sight, though he did managed to redeemed himself a bit. Burak Yigit’s Blinker and Max Mauff’s Fuss, however, were basically just glorified cameo. And yeah, I’ll admit that none of them are appealing enough to actually caught my eye. And a bit two dimensional. But they’re all humane and real, enough to convinced me that some people are that shallow. Besides, 2,5 hours isn’t that long, especially when you’re around new people.
Victoria was worth watching because rather than just entertainment, it captured something not a lot of movie does: the real world. It was raw and exasperating at times, and I am pretty sure I could pull off better crime than they did, but Sebastian Schipper delivered a compelling story. Combined it with Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s excellent camera work and the result exceeded my expectations. Ultimately, Victoria is a story about bad decisions and throwing in with the wrong people, and it’s chillingly relatable because it could’ve happened to anyone. Even me and you. Or perhaps it already has.
Director: Sebastian Schipper. Writer: Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Sebastian Schipper & Eike Frederik Schulz. Cinematographer: Sturla Brandth Grøvlen. Released on: 7 February 2015 (Berlin International Film Festival). Casts: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, Max Mauff.