When was the last time you watched a film without having a clue what it was about before you started?
Time is so pressing these days and there are so many forms of entertainment competing for our attention that it’s almost essential to watch a trailer before committing two hours of your ever decreasing lifespan to something that turns out to be utter rubbish.
For example, if I hadn’t seen the trailer for XXX: The Return of Xander Cage which includes a scene in which Vin Diesel drives a motorbike through the sea, I might have accidentally gone to watch it.
Then I’d be dead and you wouldn’t be reading this.
That’s just one reason why recommending that people watch a film without first familiarising themselves, even loosely, with the plot, characters and how the narrative unfolds, is a waste of time. There are a number of other reasons specific to this film that will also put you off, but I’m going to have a run at it anyway. Because I know you’re special.
Victoria is a German arthouse movie from 2015. That should see off the vast majority. You can call me snobby if you like, but if the number of people who fall into a coma when I say the word ‘subtitles’ was extrapolated to take in the population of the UK, there would be twenty five of us awake and no one would know how to get any food.
Secondly, it’s two hours and eighteen minutes long. That’s roughly 2.93 episodes of a box set without getting to sing along with the opening credits.
Thirdly, and this is a doozy, it’s one take. Two hours and eighteen minutes of continuous filming without cuts. Admittedly a passing knowledge of filmmaking techniques helps to articulate the magnitude of this feat, but for a glimpse, here’s Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy video from 1991. That’s a continuous shot and although it’s only five minutes long, this extract alludes to what’s involved.
Dan Kneece, best known for his work on the 1986 film Blue Velvet, operated the Steadicam for the video shoot and recalled that the shoot started with him on a Shotmaker arm on which he filmed the gang before being lifted into the air and then down again, at which point he had to take a running jump off the arm onto the sidewalk to follow [Shara] Nelson. Six takes were recorded before Kneece became too exhausted to carry the camera any more.
I’m knackered just thinking about it.
It’s around this point that, if you’re still conscious, you might be inclined to go have a look at the trailer and see whether you fancy it. I urge you not to.
The beauty of this film is in its unfolding. In not knowing what awaits Victoria as she dances around a basement club, seeking a connection in a country she’s unfamiliar with and in a language she barely understands. The absence of jump cuts forces an intimacy that quickly transforms into an unnerving defensiveness of the characters which is deftly manipulated by the director. To see these moments in isolation, out of their natural context, excises a vital element of the film that elevates it from standard arthouse fare to something quite astonishing.
Not buying it? Fine. Fair play for sticking with the article all the way through. This is for you.
I can’t guarantee that it won’t ruin the film, but I’m reasonably confident.