Directed by Sebastian Schipper (2015)
When you’re in your early 20s, life’s possibilities do, as the cliche goes, seem somewhat endless. That said, they’re nothing like what transpires over the course of two hours for Spanish guest worker Victoria in Berlin one morning, as she emerges from a dance club at near-daybreak before she’s about to start her shift as a cafe. Played brilliantly and in real-time (more on that later) by Laia Costa, Victoria is an impulsive, fun-loving and altogether stupid girl whom you nonetheless want to see wriggle out of the horrific predicament she’s helped make for herself. In the course of those two hours, she goes from naive party girl to bank robber, and from giggling & anything-goes to completely shellshocked.
"VICTORIA" has a filmmaking conceit, and it's a big one: it was filmed, start to finish, in a single take. Not like "Birdman"'s pretend single-take - a true single take, with 22 different locations and what is essentially one enormous tracking shot. Director Sebastian Schipper truly pulls it off, but I'll admit it took about 15 minutes for me to get my bearings and settle into his style. By that point, Victoria has met three drunken, horny bozos on the street in Berlin, and decides to knuckle under their requests to party with them on a roof. One of them, Sonne, is a real sweet-talker and hilariously overwrought liar, and she takes to him quickly. If you've ever been in any major European city around 6 or 7am, looking for coffee, you've seen this type: loud, arrogant, three-sheets-to-the-wind douchebags still on the prowl for the next drink or the next girl, any girl, who won't hurriedly walk across the street.
Unfortunately, she's happened to have just fallen in with three petty thugs, one of whom recently got out of prison and who owes a debt to a somewhat cartoonish mafiosi type who helped protect him in the clink. Even he doesn't know what form that debt is about to take, but as things escalate rapidly, all of sudden Victoria is accompanying these clowns on an early-morning, guns-drawn bank robbery that none of them have any experience pulling off. Berlin at 6:30am is quiet, sparse and nearly empty except for societal dregs and club kids like themselves. We learn just prior to the liftoff point that Victoria was actually a repressed music conservatory pianist for the bulk of her young life, which goes a way toward explaining why this new, exciting, adrenaline rush that she's not totally sure about it reels her in.
I'm not spoiling anything when I relay that things don't go well. At this point, sheer surges of fight-or-flight are kicking in for our protagonists, and Schipper does an excellent job of sympathetically putting the viewer in their bumbling shoes. By the time of the film's phenomenal crashdown, we're looking at what's effectively a different film than the one we started with, and at a girl who's in a lot of trouble - and who may have learned in two hours what in takes many of us the better part of our teens & twenties to figure out. Don't trust losers; stay away from strange men/women; and never stumble around an empty big city at 5 in the morning in their company.