Victoria

Victoria

There are two things to recommend this film, but sadly neither of them can compensate for its massive flaws, which ultimately make this a bit of a waste of time.

The first attraction is the fact it was shot in a single take, a technical point that's inseparable from the idea of going to watch the film simply because of the curiosity it provokes. It turns out to be less inseparable from the experience of seeing it. I forgot about the single take issue for large parts of it, which I suppose is a good thing, and testament to the largely smooth and unfussy camerawork the DOP achieves. I certainly didn't feel the tension I experienced when watching the only other genuine one-taker I've seen - Sokurov's Russian Ark - when part of the fun was wondering whether the cameraman was going to trip over or barge into a crowd member at any moment, even thought you knew he didn't. I don't think there's anything in the end remarkable about the way the film looks, but you have to say it's an impressive achievement to have captured the film in this way.

Far more important and I think more impressive are the achievements of the actors. They are the main reason to watch Victoria. All of the leads give very naturalistic, unselfconscious performances that bring their characters to life in engaging and believable style. They're not given much to work with by the script, of which more in a minute, but I did marvel frequently at how well they worked as a group to convincingly depict these young people. It is very much like watching real people, never like watching characters. Laia Costa in particular really gives it some oomph in the latter stages, and does as much as anyone could have to overcome the deficiencies of the film and still leave you feeling like you'd seen something worthwhile.

Unfortunately, to say this film has plausibility issues would be quite an understatement. It's hard to buy anything much that happens after about the first half hour. The plotting is just terrible. It makes no psychological sense. It's pointless going into details but many of the decisions that Victoria herself makes are completely impossible to believe. It's difficult in that the nature of the film - a real-time 135 minute window into these lives, with therefore no backstory for any of the characters - leaves us with little context in terms of characterisation. But Victoria doesn't seem like a complete twit to me (it's perhaps ultimately unhelpful, ironically, that Costa plays her with such bright-eyed intelligence) so there's just no way I was going to go with her getting so swiftly and unquestioningly involved in these activities, merrily driving a car that she had just seen these hoodlums steal, actively volunteering to act as a getaway driver (albeit one who had a strange episode of suddenly being unable to operate a vehicle - literally no clue what that was all about), and don't even get me started on the baby kidnapping. That was probably the nadir of the whole far-fetched enterprise.

It doesn't help that the characters they're playing are all basically lowlife idiots. Very vividly portrayed, but idiots nonetheless so it's not exactly like you're desperate to spend time hanging out with them. The side characters, who basically consist only of the criminals they get introduced to midway through the film, are nothing more than tossed off cliched gangster types. And if I'm not mistaken I think the film even managed to get the real-time element wrong… I'm sure they said it was 4am early in the film, but by the time it finished I'm pretty certain it was well past 7am, which doesn't work. You'd think if a one-take film was going to effortlessly get anything spot on, it would have been that.

In the end this is a quite badly thought-out, lightweight crime film, if you look past the single take issue. But I think it is just about worth seeing for the acting, to see a group of people managing to coalesce to create a very down to earth and believable bunch of people while working in a filming situation where they couldn't make any mistakes or try anything over again. They must have been very well rehearsed, and I imagine it took a lot of talent to carry off. That part is very impressive. Just a shame they're so ill-supported by the rest of the film.

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