Berlinale Blog Powerful and superb: Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria”

“Victoria” by Sebastian Schipper
“Victoria” by Sebastian Schipper | Photo (detail): © Senator Film Verleih

Boxer, Sonne, Blinker, Fuss and Victoria drift aimlessly through the Berlin night, but the big-city fairy tale soon becomes a nightmare. Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” is a terrific thriller that has garnered critical and public acclaim.

Victoria dances on and on and on. The strobe light hacks brief bolts of shadow into the room as her shoulders bob up and down in time to the booming electro beats; she has sweat on her forehead, she shuts her eyes, she’s tired and happy. From the very first scene Sebastian Schipper draws us straight into the action, and over the following 140 minutes we become something like the sixth member of the gang.

“I know Madrid! Real Madrid!”

The other five gang members are Sonne (played superbly by Frederik Lau), Boxer (Franz Rogowski), Blinker (Burak Yigit), Fuss (Max Mauff) and a little later Victoria (Laia Costa, magnificent). They all meet by chance on one of those crazy nights in Berlin, these endearing petty-crook chavs (“I know Madrid! Real Madrid!”) and the Spanish girl. They drink together, steal beer and smoke pot together above the city rooftops. As in his cinematic debut, Absolute Giganten, Schipper succeeds here in capturing the magic of a never-ending night. Which makes the come-down, when reality irrupts into the dream, all the harder: and Schipper stages it mercilessly, ruthlessly, cruelly, turning the big-city fairy tale into a nightmarish thriller.

Formal gamble

Schipper has shown a great deal of courage in the making of this film: nearly all the dialogues, for example, are improvised, and what’s more, Victoria was shot in a single take. The film makes do without any cuts – a formal gamble with which the director could very easily have made a flop, but the opposite is the case. That’s thanks in part to his marvellous cameraman, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, who received thunderous applause at the press conference. So we’re eager to see what else the Berlinale has to offer, for Victoria is going to be a hard act to follow.