Victoria posterTo the more cynical viewer, the fact that Victoria was shot in one continuous take may seem like a gimmick, but the truth is, the film holds many precious, real moments that would have never existed had director Sebastian Schipper decided not to shoot his movie the way he did. This isn’t a “one-take” film like Birdman (‘Birdman’ lampoons Hollywood with humorous, hyper-real, hero-hating satire). There were no tricky edits to transition into complicated effects shots. This is a daring film that balances a genuinely intimate story with tricky set pieces looming ahead of the drama. It follows a group of young men in Berlin who flirt with a Spanish visitor, our titular heroine, dragging her into a harrowing bank robbery and its aftermath. And it’s all shot in one genuine continuous take. Yes, it can’t be emphasized enough because there is magic in it.

It’s funny that Schipper, who co-wrote the script with Olivia Neergaard-Holm and Eike Frederik Schulz, played a small role in Tom Tykwer’s breakout 1998 movie Run Lola Run (he played Mike) because this film feels antithetical to the vigorously constructed Tykwer movie. While Run Lola Run depends so much on edits that it defied rules of space and time, Victoria is enslaved to chronology due to the fact the film has not a single splice cut in the action. Yet both films share a kinetic energy that grips the viewer in similar ways.

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The obvious energy of Victoria comes from the film’s vibrant characters. We meet them under the strobe lights of a nightclub (epileptics should be warned). Victoria (Laia Costa) is on her way home from an uneventful night of drinking and dancing at a Berlin nightclub, when a sweet-talking Sonne (Frederick Lau) persuades her to join him and his “brothers” Boxer (Franz Rogowski), Blinker (Burak Yigit) and Fuss (Max Mauff) to extend the night a bit longer.

The push and pull in Sonne and Victoria’s flirtation creates an invisible line of power that’s wonderful to watch. Lau brings genuine charm to his role and Costa, who looks like a young Björk, is enchanting as a woman who can hold her own with these playfully rough dudes who sometimes allow a glitter of menace to shine through their rakish demeanor. The film takes its time with the mundane getting-to-know-you phase without any tricks in time lapse for sentimentality. There are a few scenes where the dialogue drops and dreamy music takes over the soundtrack. If it was meant to cover up flubs in the dialogue, you will never notice by the way the characters continue to wordlessly gel.

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There’s a more subtle way Victoria exudes its verve. It has several wondrous moments that indelibly make these characters human, and credit is due to the film’s so-called gimmick. The single take works for this film because it captures both the mundane and the spontaneous with a sort of reverent naturalism, and you have to hand it to the actors for both keeping their composure and embracing these serendipitous moments. They barrel through small mistakes without flinching, including a dropped cigarette and a sticky door. But the real intense moments where this works best is when the action begins. After a lengthy chase sequence involving gunfire, when Victoria finally has a chance to catch her breath and tries to speak it sounds as real and as visceral as you might imagine it would feel for someone who has just had her life in peril several times over.

The camera work can feel dizzying, and there are a couple of instances where you might be left to wonder whether that red point of light in a window during the chase scene is a laser sight that is intentionally part of the drama but is really just a flub. Overall, though, Victoria features transcendent moments that overshadow any notion that this is a film driven by a mere gimmick. It’s not often that a movie can touch the human side of performance while being as grounded within the constraints of the medium, and Victoria is a thrilling, sometimes moving example of ownership of the cinematic experience.

Hans Morgenstern

Victoria runs 138 minutes, is in English and in German with English subtitles and is not rated (it has cursing and violence). It opens in our Miami area this Friday, Oct. 16, at the Coral Gables Art Cinema who hosted a preview screening for the purpose of this review. For other screening dates across the U.S., jump through this link. Adopt Films provided all images to illustrate this post.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

DavidBowie Where are We Now? stillWell, consider my cynicism of David Bowie ever releasing a record again squashed. Early this morning (on his 66th birthday), David Bowie’s official website debuted his new song “Where Are We Now?” accompanied with a lyric-video (watch it here). Bowie seems in fine form. Working once again with producer Tony Visconti, the new song fits right into the stream of albums he released in the early 2000s, Heathen and Reality. It’s hard to believe his last album, Reality, was 10 years ago.

The new song has all the autumnal elements of Bowie. Again, his obsession with creeping mortality juxtaposed with naiveté has cropped up. The first lines:

Had to get the train
From Potzdamer Platz
You never knew that
That I could do that
Just walking the dead

Potzdamer Platz is an acknowledgement of Berlin, where Bowie famously worked with Visconti and Brian Eno on some his the greatest albums of his career: Low and “Heroes.” He clearly is in nostalgia mode referencing Böse Brücke, a checkpoint separating the once divided city. He also sings “Sitting in the Dschungel/On Nurnberger Strasse,” a reference to a club he used to frequent in the city in the late 1970s.

Another element recognizable to the Bowie obsessive is the mark of video artist Tony Oursler, who Bowie began working with during 1997’s Earthling. The projected faces on oval objects is his hallmark. It reveals Bowie’s typical self-deprecating humor. He knows he’s no longer some pretty pop star.

David Bowie Where are we now still

Finally, the music seems low-key with a key dynamic and powerful moment halfway through when he offers a beautiful building string of lines that also shows how accepting he is about mortality:

As long as there’s sun
As long as there’s sun

As long as there’s rain
As long as there’s rain

As long as there’s fire
As long as there’s fire

As long as there’s me

There are dreamy guitars and a sporadic, soft piano with a quietly tapped drum kit, until the soaring midpoint and the guitar climbs a high-pitched scale and the piano starts soloing with restraint (could it be Mike Garson?*), and the drums receive a delicate pounding. Bowie is clearly on acoustic getting emphatic along with the other instruments. It’s a beautiful return to form. It seems Reality was only yesterday, and Bowie was never gone.

Details (including full track listing) about the new album, titled the Next Day, can be found hereIt will be released in the US on March 12 (Australia will get it first on March 8) via Columbia Records. Edit: revised release dates:

March 8: Germany
March 11: UK
March 12: USA
March 15: Australia

Hans Morgenstern

*Up-date: Garson confirmed via email that is not him playing but added that he thinks “it’s a cool song.”

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)