Comparisons to last year’s “Birdman” are inevitable, but if anything, Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” – which premiered last week to enthusiastic reviews out of this year’s Berlinale film festival (including a largely positive one from our own Jessica Kiang) – might have just pulled off an even more daring stylistic feat. Schipper and his DP Sturla Brandth Grøvlen shot “Victoria” in one unbroken, two-hour-plus mobile take, and it’s an ideal method for the subject matter at hand. The picture is a nerve-rattling, claustrophobic actioner, about an ordinary young woman whose night turns from clubbing to crime and devolves into utter chaos. It’s a neat technical feat, and will no doubt arouse the curiosities of many a moviegoer, because whereas “Birdman” employs visual sleight of hand to sustain the illusion of one continuous shot, and Alexander Sokurov’s “Russian Ark” is a much slower, more elegiac, arthouse experiment, “Victoria” incorporates genre elements and has been filmed in a shaky, restless guerilla one-take, that impressively utilizes no fewer than twenty locations.
On the basis of the first trailer, the hype may be warranted. It’s a lurid, inviting piece of kinetic showmanship, and although the trailer format does inherently betray something as formally audacious as the single-shot gimmick (the trailers for “Birdman” only give us the faintest taste of that movie’s spectacular insanity), “Victoria” looks riveting regardless. Jessica sang the film’s praises in her B+ review out of Berlinale, saying that the film was “the tensest she’s been in a cinema in some time,” although she lamented that the film’s charming first act – a talk-heavy, meandering prologue set in a Berlin club, with echoes of a darker Richard Linklater – nearly dissolved once the film’s heist-thriller mechanizations began to click into gear.
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“Victoria” was greeted favorably in Berlin: most notably, perhaps, by director Darren Aronofsky, who said “This film rocked my world,” after presenting Sturla Brandth Grøvlen with a Silver Bear Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution.
And don’t worry about waiting too long for this movie to land stateside. “Victoria” has been picked up for domestic release by New York based indie distributor Adopt Films. It’s a clever move by the company, especially on the heels of their distribution of 2014’s much-prasied Palme d’Or winner “Winter’s Sleep,” and if the film’s a hit, we could begin to see a bridging of the gap between art and genre films. Adopt’s Jeff Lipsky and Tim McGrady had this to say about Schipper’s unique genre experiment (via Deadline): “[The film] shares in common with those earlier titles a strong, smart, beautiful, galvanizing female protagonist. With this ground-breaking film, Schipper has mattered the full potential of digital filmmaking. Movies this good and this visually exciting don’t come along every day.”
A solid endorsement indeed. Adopt Films will release “Victoria” in the U.S. later this year. Watch the trailer below.