Victoria opens with strobe lights, club music, and bathroom graffiti. The first few minutes of the film feel like a particularly intoxicating blend of A Night at the Roxbury and Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void. Victoria, a young Spanish girl played by Laia Costa, dances her way through a crowd and is quickly harassed by several “real Berlin” guys. This is when the film becomes frustrating to watch.
Despite their reprehensible, arguably predatory moments early in the film, the “real Berlin” guys—primarily Sonne, Boxer, and Blinker—induct Victoria into their close-knit, Trainspotting-style group. Sonne and Victoria begin to develop a relationship, and all seems well in this hazy late-night version of Berlin—until Boxer needs a favor. Then this one-shot film becomes a blur of guns, lights, and muffled dialogue.
Like a dark, more visceral version of Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco, Victoria’s story questions the necessity of maturity. Though, as a character, Victoria has strength and courage, she possesses a sort of self-aware naïveté, a seemingly conscious willingness to allow the forces around her to guide her actions. The fact that this film is a single continuous take enhances the idea that Victoria’s life is one steady stream of pressures and obligations—she never has a moment to reflect. In this way, Victoria is more relatable than many films: there are no cuts, no blackouts, no second attempts. The audience can analyze how the ugly minutiae of every moment impacts Victoria’s spirit.
Several moments in the film made me wish that Victoria‘s characters had the healthy cynicism of Alessia Cara. In her song “Here,” Alessia Cara says, “I would rather be at home all by myself—not in this room with people who don’t even care about my well-being,” and it is this sort of introverted independence that would have benefited Victoria and her friends. At times, it seems as though the film highlights the dangers of friendship. Then again, friendship is as much a saving force in the film as it is a damaging force, so maybe the movie is about the fluid, unaligned nature of relationships. Human connection is a matter of perspective.
The film has a simple beauty. Bright reds and blues fight against the dull grays of a noir Berlin background. The music surges at times, often when the characters are in motion from one setting to the next, and this musical ebb and flow skillfully captures the ups and downs of reality: at times, life feels like a song—lyrical, artful, smooth—but other moments are harsh and raw, like No Country for Old Men or Training Day—filled with scratchy, panicked voices and car horns.
Sebastian Schipper: Director
Sebastian Schipper, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, and Eike Frederik Schulz: Writers
Laia Costa and Frederick Lau: Stars