REVIEW: Victoria

A film, above all else, is a means to experience something outside of ourselves, outside of the scope of our own context. The trick with that, though, is that it is impossible. Even completely foreign and fantastical stories are assimilated by the viewer. As humans we apply empathy, sympathy, and personal context to fill in whatever experience is presented to us on screen. The real magic of a film, then, is not to completely present something outside of the viewer’s context, but to present a story in a way that, while foreign, is completely relatable. It allows us to see that humanity, as far reaching and diverse as it is, is pretty universal in its experience. One of the best examples this year of a film who achieves this, the ascension from empathetic story to something foreign and somehow universally relatable, is Victoria.

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Victoria is the latest from writer-director Sebastion Schipper and writers Olivia Neergard-Hold and Eike Frederik Schulz and it is impressive. Impressive in the fact the film is a one-hundred and thirty minute one-take. To the naked eye at least, there are no cuts, no cheats, not clever CGI, it is just a real time narrative told in absolute real time. It is also impressive in that the entire film relied heavily on improvisation as the script was a twelve page outline. And finally, it is impressive in the sense that it takes a world that builds into the heights of fantastical and extremism and makes it feel muted, real, and ultimately relatable. When one-shot, or one-take is a buzzword that can lead to hype and not much else, it is a real relief to see it used here with such skilled craftsmanship. It isn’t a gimmick, it is a method to learn about these characters and their two-hour journey in a manner of realism that is rarely found in movies.

The situation itself leads from a woman out alone for a night of dancing and merriment and ends with a bank robbery and the aftermath of that crime. On paper, that looks like it shouldn’t work. It appears that the leaps of believability would be so gigantic the film would teeter into plain silliness. The acting, the craft , and the moments Victoria allows itself to breathe, all lead to something that is not only believable, but universal. Perhaps the greatest example of this is when the movie allows our two main characters to sit in a closed cafe for around ten to fifteen minutes and have a conversation about their lives. It doesn’t feel forced, it doesn’t feel fake. It feels like two people, drunk, tired, and attracted to each other exposing personal truths in a careful way. This moment allows for our title character’s actions to make sense. Her spiral throughout the night from unhappy girl to criminal fits into her personal narrative.

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In a lesser film that wouldn’t trust itself to take its time with such character and world building, the character of Victoria would seem like a mindless follower at best, and a complete idiot at worst. In this film though, we understand the sequence of her bad decision. She is in a place of vulnerability and melancholy that leaves her open to her new compatriots and their life path. The same could be said for the group of men who incite the criminal action. In a lesser film, they would come off as bullish and unlikeable. In Victoria, they are flawed men who are good, who have followed their own faulty paths in vulnerable moments.

This results in a story that is not directly relatable to most of us, the world of organized crime and robbery, but is somehow universal in it’s human themes. While Victoria finds herself in a situation most of us will never understand, we all understand the themes of failure, sadness, desire, disappointment. While the container of the film is something that is outside of us, outside of our own context, Victoria gives the viewer a larger scope of the human experience. It conveys everything we all know but can never truly express. And that, that is the magic of movies.

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