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March 03, 2016

Victoria

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Sebastian Schipper - 2015
Adopt Films BD Region A

I admit to being ambivalent about films that are presented as one continuous shot, be they actually filmed that way or edited to appear as a seamless whole. At this point, the one film that worked best for me is still Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark which was dazzling enough with the artwork in the Hermitage Museum. Now that the technology exists to do the filming for the entire length of a feature, there is still the question of whether the challenge to make a film in this manner adds anything to the artistry of filmmaking.

While the craftsmanship of Victoria is admirable, there were times when I felt that at 138 minutes, the story could have used a bit of pruning. The real star of Victoria is Norwegian cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grovlen. That Grovlen followed the action going up and down staircases, in and out of cabs, and on the streets of Berlin, is the most amazing part of the film. The story itself is of some interest. Schipper began with the concept of a robbery and expanded the story from there. Unsurprisingly, it would be a French film critic who would bring up the comparison to the classic noir, Gun Crazy, noted for the long continuous take of a bank robbery and getaway. I would hope that Schipper has gotten around to seeing the Joseph Lewis film from 1950. In Schipper's film, a young Spanish woman meets a quartet of young guys so rowdy, they're denied entrance to a dive of a Berlin nightclub. Relatively new to Berlin, and barely speaking any German, Victoria takes the invitation to hang out with the guys. A night of drinking turns into something more serious as the guys, presumably small time criminals, are to do a robbery. One of the young men gets sick. Victoria, with no idea of what she is getting into, volunteers to do the driving for a what is suppose to be a quick and easy job.

It's some of the individual images that have the most interest. The film begins inside the small night club, dancers appear as shadows against the strobe lights and percussive beat. The camera wanders a bit inside the club until focussing on Victoria. As the story progresses, we are able to see daylight dimly over the city. Victoria and the man she latches onto, Sonne, speak English to each other. The other characters speak German. There are a few moments when there are no subtitles, or what is said is unclear, yet none of that matters. Most of what transpires can be understood visually. Hopefully, the interest in Victoria will make Sebastian Schipper's earlier work available for further evaluation.

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Posted by peter at March 3, 2016 03:13 PM