Victoria 

  
A lot of European movies concentrate on telling real stories with minimal special effects. Certainly the ones that get released in the UK do, they make comedies too but they don’t tend to travel as well. Hollywood has the big budget stuff covered, and it is hard to compete in this area, so the films made on this side of the Atlantic veer toward social realism. In fact it could be argued that Europe owns this genre in the same way that America does the superheroes and the sci-fi. It isn’t a push to suggest that movies such as Ida, The Past, The Hunt, The Lives of Others, The Sea Inside, Blue is the Warmest Colour, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly and everything made in Belgium by the Dardenne Brothers have an authenticity that US cinema struggles to match. I totally accept that Richard Linklater has form in this area but there is just something different, more honest and more stripped down about the stuff coming from the continent. Victoria continues this trend but also shows that great technical accomplishment may not solely be the domain of well financed American film makers after all.

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Victoria is a twenty something Spanish girl who has recently moved to Germany. Leaving a club she links up with a group of four local lads and, enjoying their attention, she begins to spend time with them. The film does give the impression that we are privy to real events, not only because of the natural way that they interact with one another but also because it all plays out in real time. More impressive than that though is the fact that the whole two hour movie, that sees them travel around the city, is captured in one single shot. This isn’t a Before Sunrise style conversational film either; it is a proper thriller as Victoria realises the true nature of her new friends and gets caught up in some very dangerous activities. 

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Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman was also presented in a single unbroken shot but that film had hidden cuts. No one accused the director of cheating with this though because at the time it still seemed like an impressive trick. Victoria is genuinely one shot though, no edits, no tricks, no computer generated blends. The camera does not pull away from the action for a single second. It’s not clear if this was an artistic or a budgetary consideration but it is brilliant nonetheless and technically way beyond what Iñárritu managed to do. This is how director Sebastian Schipper has out Hollywooded Hollywood. Birdman seemed gimmicky as well but with Victoria the construction never distracts from story. 

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Apparently they shot the film three times of which the one presented in cinemas is version two. There are clearly times when the execution is not perfect, some scenes go on too long as the actors riff on their situation and lines are fluffed, but rather than breaking the illusion this just makes it seem more believable. People do trip over sentences in real life and they do go off on long tangents. There are a couple of times when the dialogue is lost under the music, which you suspect might be because the audio was somehow compromised, but it all works. There is no time for exposition yet you know everything you need to know and plot threads are unresolved but that is okay too. Human existence is not as neat as is generally shown on screen. With all its quirks this film is a triumph. 

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The Ripley Factor:

 

Victoria herself is an interesting character. She is not exactly a role model but neither is she totally weak. You do question why she gets involved with these men when they are pretty objectionable right from the start but you realise that she is looking for some kind of connection. She needs purpose and excitement in her life and it leads her to make some stupid decisions. She is deeply flawed, she is naive and she is very far from being an innocent bystander in proceedings but she still, largely, keeps the audience on her side. 

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Is this one for the kids?
Victoria is rated 15 for swearing, drug taking, bloody violence and (male) nudity. See, I told you it wasn’t a chat piece.

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Victoria is in Cinemas and On Demand now.

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