I’d say that the victor in the new German film Victoria by Sebastian Schipper is the filmmaker himself. Victoria is an Adopt Films release (in the US; sales agent is The Match Factory) that runs 138 minutes. It was shot in one take. Of course, the concept of a one take film is not new. We’ve seen it before, and not too long ago; Alexander Sokurov shot Russian Ark (2002) inside one museum with more than 2,000 actors, but what makes Victoria such a feat is that it wasn’t shot in one space with rehearsed actors and lines. Schipper filmed Victoria in various locations throughout Berlin (albeit all of which were within proximity to one another) and the actors improvised all the lines and actions based on Schipper’s 12-paged script.
During the Q&A after the Melnitz Movies screening last night at James Bridges Theater, Schipper told audiences that trusting in actors is the biggest learning curve he accomplished during this shoot. Schipper, who is himself an actor and was in another well-known German film–Run Lola Run (1998) mentioned that if it weren’t for his lead actor Laia Costa’s cool, fun and lax approach towards such a high pressure shooting schedule, the anxiety would have taken him over.
What impressed me the most about this film is the scale of production. For a movie with such a simple story line, it is quite full of events. SPOILER ALERT: There’s a piano scene, there’s a shoot out, there is vomiting, there are police cars and choppers, there is a hotel room, there is screaming, crying, laughing, kissing and nudity. On the one hand, I can imagine any other young and ambitious filmmaker wanting to do something like this right out of graduating UCLA or Tisch. On the other hand, the scale of this movie does make it indeed a movie-going experience.
What was most stunning to me was the ending, and I could not look at the screen without my mouth open. Watching Victoria walk away from all the events of her night towards her future was to me so unbelievable. And that’s exactly, as Schipper put it last night, how the filmmaker himself felt after he watched the final cut of the movie–a movie that he took three takes in order to accomplish, and a movie that he was able to edit with each time with the actors and the production itself, and not in post.
Victoria is a movie that shocks and moves. I thoroughly enjoyed it.