Victoria

Victoria ★★★★½

# Though I'm poor I am free
When I go I shall fight. #

Rarely has a film been more aptly named after its main character. Because in Victoria it has a persona who just happens to be one of the most complex, layered and beautifully characterised I have seen in a film for quite some time. This film had to be named after her because she is everything to this film and, in that lead role, Laia Costa takes complete control of a riveting story.

It's a film that wastes absolutely no time in getting to work introducing us to who or what Victoria is. We see her gently flirting with a barman and seeming to be disappointed when she doesn't get much attention from him. Immediately the seeds are sown that this is a woman who is lonely, maybe looking for attention, and definitely looking for companionship. So when she does fall in Frederick Lau and friends, it makes a hell of a lot more sense than it could have done.

Initially it does seem a little bit of a stretch that she would still do it, naughty boys as they happen to be. But with their respectful attitude towards her and their offers to show her a different side of a city she hadn't yet seen much of, it gradually becomes even clearer why she is happy to spend time with these guys. It's so, so key to Victoria working well that her motivations are clear and at least to some degree believable.

It also becomes clear soon that she is a very complex individual, possibly bordering on the suicidal, and her reactions to the escalating danger she finds herself in become more and more meaningful too. I started to understand that she didn't just fall in with these guys because she wanted a bit of danger, but because she was perhaps a bit dangerous herself. Maybe more so, judging by her calm demeanour when she and Lau hole up in the apartment of a young family.

Layer after layer comes away from her, revealing more and more detail that not only quickly dispels any notion of the unbelievable that may be drifting her way, all the while allowing some room for interpretation as to who she is. She comes into her own more when things go VERY wrong towards the end and the ending, as ambiguous as it is, just goes to show that the sweet and really utterly lovely woman we meet at the beginning is just a part of who she is rather than being her whole personality.

I loved this character and I loved Costa's performance as her. As a rarity, the 'real time' device adopted by director Sebastian Schipper for the story actually works perfectly for the steady escalation of events and also in terms of the pace at which we learn more about her. The 'one shot' effect used initially didn't seem to add much beyond a clever, elongated stylistic flourish (has it ever added anything more than that?). Then it became clear to me that it almost forces the film into effecting a more realism based aesthetic which complimented the characters and story well.

I think some debate could arise about where the strongest part of this film lies. I can well imagine there are those who would argue that the 'travelogue' part of the story, where they're just hanging out and having fun, could easily have been expanded into an almost Linklater-esque full tale. Yet I can see an argument that the film could have arrived at the crime part of its story with more haste.

But I would argue against both of these. I certainly didn't feel as though Victoria could afford to rush towards its more sinister half of its story, or it would certainly run the risk of a dive into the ridiculous that it might not recover from. Plus, I didn't feel as though the opening stages were substantial enough on their own to be spun out to a whole film by themselves.

Everything just feeds into everything else far too well in Victoria for me to see that anything else could have worked nearly as well. It's an unusual, consistently tense and extraordinarily well paced film which almost instantly makes Schipper and Costa talents who I am desperate to see more of. Oh, and if the acting work dries up for Franz Rogowski, he could make a decent living out of being a Nemanja Vidic lookalike, I reckon.

🇵🇱 Steve G liked these reviews