Like our own reviewer, I have to admit I was a bit exhausted and defeated by Victoria the first time round. The main characters were a bit too stupid, the endlessly-heightening situation got a bit too ridiculous, the film drags a bit at the start and the end, but there’s no denying the complete terror of the middle. And more than that, there’s no denying the intensity of the reaction the film has provoked. Swathes of people, especially Germans but other people too, profess to having been knocked sideways by this film – two people (that’s hordes by my standards) commented on my first blog post to recommend this film to refute my argument that there were no great German movies anymore.
And reviewers loved it too: Der Spiegel called it a “triumph,” Die Zeit called it “absolutely gigantic,” RBB said it was a “stroke of luck for German cinema,” and the Hollywood Reporter may have got a little overexcited when it compared up-and-coming actor Frederick Lau to a young Marlon Brando. But it’s easy to get overexcited about this film – its punishing second half pushes you out of the cinema wanting a stiff drink and a sit down. And the Brando comparison is just one of many high-flying superlatives: Victoria has been put alongside Run Lola Run, Irreversible, Breathless, Birdman, Rope, Oh Boy, and The Bourne Supremacy (that last one by me). But obviously none of these really help. You just have to see it.
All these reviewers also insisted they weren’t just getting off on the audacity of the stunt (it’s a single-take, 140-minute, 22-location race around Berlin Mitte with no technical trickery) but that the film actually works. It was a gamble that paid off against the odds. And the long structure of the film, from a slow start, allows a steady raising of the pace, and makes room for comedy, sentimentality, terror and tragedy.
So I’ve changed my mind a bit. Maybe especially because Victoria has something witty to say about the bored-expat culture that Berlin seems to attract. In fact, if the film has a moral, it might be this: if you move to Berlin, probably best to steer clear of the natives. That expat bubble might be the best place for you.