Sebastian Schipper / Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski / Drama-Thriller / 2016 / 15 / 138mins
Behold the true power of the butterfly effect on the bigscreen - it's German thriller Victoria.
After leaving a techno club in Berlin, Spanish music student Victoria (Laia Costa) bumps into a group of four drunk, dodgy young lads. One of them, Sonne (Frederick Lau), takes a fancy to her, inviting her to join them again and again till she eventually caves in. It's as creepy as it sounds. Shame on you, Victoria, for dragging us along like the sober friend that JUST WANTS TO GO HOME.
Making dangerous decisions at 3am with a head full of shots isn't the best way to get an audience to empathise with a lead protagonist, especially when we are meant to be satisfied with the 'love makes you do crazy shit' school of thinking.
Oh yes, Victoria falls head over heels for Sonne. Knowing that premise isn't such a bad thing. On the contrary, I feel it adds to what the film has to offer, which isn't much. The first hour seems to be some quasi-romance, a literal 'brief encounter', and their crimes seem consigned to their contraband from a cornershop. But remember: films reek with naivety. Your gut feeling is to tut and roll your eyes - surely this girl can't seriously consider these men to be safe? She could quite easily walk away from the start.
Character development within a romantic structure is lame but little do you know director Schipper is luring you in for the sucker punch - a dick move in some cultures, but this time he's doing you a massive favour. There's a progressive symbolic construction throughout Victoria, building toward a violent finale. Our leads attempt to steal a car, rob a store, fight some people, smoke weed on a roof, all before the main twist and the utterly dreadful, cathartic conclusion.
The single shot style works ridiculously well. Managed seamlessly, gracing scenes with realist discretion, the photography is nothing short of a technical masterpiece. You're an omnipotent presence following Victoria's self imposed descent into chaos - it's the film trip of a lifetime, a realist counterweight to the fantasy of Birdman and the GoPro indie comedy of Hardcore Henry.
Borderline spontaneous dialogue contributes to Victoria's aura. We're there, with them. Involved. A crime that seems as real and possible as any other. A Bonnie and Clyde on Adderall, if you will. This reference resonates with the leads too. If anything we learn more about Sonne than we do about Victoria - given the implication that we are observing from her perspective, this seems fair - but the title does little to justify Sonne's brief, yet destructive, impression on Victoria's life.
Unless this, then, is the night that comes to define her life.
Indeed it must be.
Morality and mortality have never seemed so aggressively real. First hour aside, this European hit has few rivals, technically or aesthetically. What else: it's a classic in the making, even if it is reserved for a cathartic thriller.
Film as a Film - 4 / Target Audience - 4 / General Audience - 3
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