Filmed across 22 different locations and involving 150 extras, Victoria is a tremendous technical achievement and one that's hard to believe once you see just how seamlessly the narrative unfurls. Moments of suspense are impeccably intertwined with humour, romance and observations of life in what surmounts to an organically evolved thriller that never feels improvised or overly rehearsed. Alongside the film's high-concept approach Berlin shines proudly as a character in itself. Constantly permeating the frame, the city's tenement blocks watch idly whilst the glow of flickering street lamps underscore the nervous energy of this restless city. However, the linchpin that holds the film together is the remarkable performances of Costa and Lau. Costa boasts a look that somehow connotes her character's delight, excitement, fear and trepidation all at the same time, whilst Lau, as the only one of the boys who successfully circumvents the boorish bravado of the 'laddish' mentality of their group displays a simpering curiosity and growing infatuation towards Victoria that adds gravitas to an airy screenplay.
One scene in particular, involving a neglected piano in a café, is perfectly calibrated to the film's exploration of longing and belonging. Blending the pair's talents magnificently, this is the indispensable catalyst that makes their union seem plausible in an increasingly inconceivable scenario. Schipper's script doesn't quite complement his technical prowess and once you peer behind the smoke and mirrors of the film's one-take gimmick the criminal-underworld lurking behind it feels trite and contrived. Victoria's complicity is difficult to comprehend, whilst the notion that acts of criminality like these are rarely planned, but rather dictated by larger, mitigating circumstance doesn't coalesce with the preposterous development of the narrative. Yet none of this can take away from its pure entertainment factor. An experience akin to a burst of pure adrenaline intravenously introduced to your bloodstream, Victoria remains one helluva ride.
The 65th Berlin Film Festival takes place from 5-15 February 2015. For more of our coverage, simply follow this link.
Patrick Gamble | @PatrickJGamble