Victoria Movie Walk Through and Review
So, I think I’m a little late to the Victoria party. Have you guys already seen it? I had been waiting and waiting for it to hit the American theaters, and never saw it come through and then I realized it was already streaming? Why didn’t you say something? You knew I was dying to see it. I mean, it was shot in a single take. Not in a Alejandro González Iñárritu Birdman CGI sort of way. But in a literal… turn the camera on, hope it has enough batteries, and record for 2 hours and 15 minutes, and then turn it off sort of a way.
Let’s think this through for a minute. A couple of Germans get together and think… I know what we’ll do – we’ll film a movie straight through. And seeing as though it’d be SIMPLE to do a walking and talking sort of a movie like Before Sunrise, let’s not do that. Instead, let’s do a BANK HEIST movie. You know, let’s rob a bank in one take. Alright, If you haven’t seen the movie I’ll keep the spoilers to myself until later on down the review. So far I haven’t said anything that the back of the movie box wouldn’t say.
But oh my good graciousness is this a fun ride of a movie. You really need to check this thing out immediately. Here, why don’t you watch the trailer and decide for yourself it this isn’t the coolest, off the hook thing ever?
Regardless… Victoria is a Movie-Adrenalin-Junky’s dream. It’s different than any movie you’ve ever seen. The editing isn’t the only thing that is different. The other big thing that really fascinated me was the fact that it really wasn’t shot in any one language. Victoria is a Spaniard and meets up a group of Germans. They speak German almost exclusively, but Victoria doesn’t speak English. And so Sonne, one of the four Germans, agree to speak in English. And seeing as though everything important revolves around the budding relationship between Sonne and Victoria, a substantial amount of the movie is in English. Maybe half? So much so, that when Germany selected Victoria to be their submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy awards, it was denied because too much of it was in English. Which I adored about this movie. It was very European in it’s flavor. Numerous languages coming and going as fast as the characters switch who they are talking to.
The opening of the movie is a little dicey as you try and settle in to the non-cut style of the movie settles into a groove. The acting seems to be quasi-memorized? quasi-ad-libbed? Which makes me a little wary when it isn’t done well. But once the movie finds it’s point and purpose about 20 minutes in, we realize we are in for a Bank Heist sometime in our near future. And everything then starts barreling towards this inexorable conclusion. And let me tell you this… the editing style (or non-editing style, whichever you prefer) really adds so much to this movie. What would be an ok movie, ratcheted way way the heck up on the stress scale simply because we become a member of this crew and fall in with Victoria as the camera itself. We are there when everything hits the fan.
I will say that it is totally worth a watch. Highly highly recommend it. So go watch it. Then come back as I walk through some of the more spoilery details of the movie. Ok? Last chance… move along… nothing to see here.
Alright… assuming that all the Victoria Movie watcher interlopers are gone, let us away with the real discussion about Victoria.
First, let me say, this is decidedly the first time I have ever wanted to send a love letter to a cameraman… which was shot by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen. And I’ve even reached out to him to see if he’d be open to answering a few questions for us… so we shall see what we see. But Sturla is, himself, the fourth wall… and he has dragged us into the experience by being us for the duration of the movie. The single cut method definitely puts the movie definitively in First Person for us. While most movies sit resolutely in the clouds of an omnipotent 3rd person, Victoria shows us a better way to really experience a movie. Kudos to you Sturla for your wonderful game day decisions throughout the filming of this film. It really immersed us in the action.
Initially, when Director Sebastian Schipper pitched the movie idea of a single take to the financiers he said that he would deliver a version of the film utilizing jump cuts as a plan B if they were unable to complete the film in a single take. But the team was able to pull of the film in three tries. And, truth be told, Schipper is quoted as saying the jump cut version of the film was “not good.” So, thankfully!! they were able to pull it off. And pull it off they did. In only three takes? But what is super hysterical, is the fact that in the credits, they have an Editor and also an Assistant Editor. Hahaha. I totally want that job. I can see that Sturla would need to coordinate and orchestrate his boxing, and his shots… but editing? Too much. Is this kinda like getting paid for not farming?
It is true that there are only 12 pages of written script for the entirety of the 140 minute movie. If you know anything about movie scripts… that is absolutely nothing. On average, a movie of this duration would have a script in the 130 – 140 pages range. 12 pages doesn’t even a treatment make for a movie of this duration. So the burden of this movie lies on the shoulders of key 5 or 6 actors that populate this movie.
Victoria Character Development
One of the things that sold me on this movie was the character development and the backstory for Victoria. We really have no idea about anyone else in this movie. They are all black boxes to us. But with Victoria we needed to understand why she was out alone on her own partying. We needed to have some glimpse into her past, and the reasons that brought her to this spot in her life. Because she was about to start making some desperately terrible choices as the movie progressed… and we needed to see why.
We get that why while Sonne and Victoria are sitting at the piano. Victoria tells Sonne that she had spent 7 hours a day at the piano (the maximum allowable for health reasons) practicing and practicing in the hopes of becoming a truly great pianist. But she ultimately washed out. And here she is… wondering what to make of her life. Here she is floundering until she met by four German strangers who want her to come along as they party. And that was the clincher for me. It was that one detail that sold me on the movie. If I hadn’t had that insight, or that clue into her life, I would have cried Bull Crap on the whole affair. Because Victoria makes a few extremely forceful decisions to stay in the middle of this tightening death spiral of a movie. Why else would she stay when given an opportunity to leave if she hadn’t been tragically hurt by something deeply.
Victoria The Practical Details
There were a couple of times throughout the filming that I thought, I wonder how they did that? Simple things… like make an elevator sit and wait for them while open. Is there someone in the corner that we aren’t seeing? Or how Sonne added the blood to his gut while in bed. Had he been carrying blood pellets the entire movie? A blood balloon? What? And were there a gaggle of support technicians following behind Sturla throughout the shoot? Wait, that couldn’t have worked! They took like 3 or 4 different car rides. So were the support guys spread out across the city? “ALPHA, this is BRAVO, Victoria is leaving the rave, and are headed to the Coffee Shop. Do you copy?” “Bravo, Alpha reads you… we have a visual on Victoria’s approach to the Coffee Shop. Extras, queue the sirens. Queue the dogs.” Or what have you.
I did a very small punk video once and the behind the scenes necessary to pull it off was off the hook. I cannot even begin to imagine how these guys made this thing happen. Car control. Neighborhood control. Hotel agreements. Plaza shoot out approvals. Daggum, I can’t even begin to imagine how they made this thing a reality. IN THREE TAKES?! That’s just unimaginable to me. I just have the highest respect for these guys.
I’ve just heard from the Sturla, the camerman, and he has agreed to let me interview him. But I’ve decided that I’m so excited about that little interview, that I’ll do it as a seperate piece in the next few days. Ok? But the bottom line here is that Victoria is not a stunt movie idea, but a stellar movie that uses a new technique and idea to pull out the intensity and stress of a situation in order to show it to the audience in an ultra-real way. I literally felt like I was fleeing for my life when the group was being shot at – and I don’t even remember whether we ever really saw the police ever once. I remember a car with lights, and maybe a form off in the distance… but I was stressed out of my mind. Or the scene sitting outside the bank when the car stops?!? OH MY GOSH. It was so legit. So real. We were in that van with Victoria… wondering, what do we do now?? From a realism standpoint I’ve never seen anything like it. Even Iñárritu’s Birdman didn’t use the single cut as effectively as Victoria. Don’t get me wrong, Birdman was movie of the year because the acting was incredible. But the cinematography is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Kudos guys. This is a fantastic film.