It's another Saturday night and Victoria's (Laia Costa) got nobody. She dances alone in a nightclub, then talks up a bartender before giving up and exiting into the cold Berlin night. She's a Spaniard visiting Germany on a work visa and has no local friends. When a group of young men led by Sonne (Frederick Lau) see her and begin a harmless and flirtatious conversation, Victoria is immediately keen to see where things go.
So begins Sebastian Schipper's showy crime thriller, which audaciously traces Victoria's night in one sprawling long take. Things begin innocently enough, with Sonne and his rowdy compatriots providing her with a drunken tour of the city. "I'll show you our world," he promises. But the film eventually shifts gears when one of the men is forced to involve his friends and Victoria in a crime, resulting in a devastating turn that sends the narrative into ridiculously contrived territory.
Single-take films are few and far between, but the best of them, like Aleksandr Sokurov's Russian Ark, connects its formalism with some thematic heft or historical resonance. As it progresses, it's clear there is no rhyme or reason why Victoria uses the single-take approach, except to simply prove that it can. That makes for an ultimately hollow experience.
Watching Victoria and Sonne make doe eyes at each other during an uncomfortable scene inside a cafe makes the viewer feel like the third wheel on a first date. As the characters grow more desperate, their motivations and actions become even more unbelievable and convenient. A final, climactic scene between the two leads borders on parody.
Victoria, which opens on Friday, Oct. 16, at the Ken Cinema, might initially seem impressive stylistically. But peel back the façade and all you've got is a derivative genre film with very little to say about fate and consequence.
Crimson Peak: Guillermo del Toro’s haunted house movie follows an aspiring author who is torn between a childhood friend and a mysterious stranger.
Beasts of No Nation: A child soldier in an unnamed African country battles to stay alive despite his horrendous living conditions.
Bridge of Spies: At the height of the Cold War, an insurance lawyer (Tom Hanks) is tasked with negotiating a prisoner swap between the United States and Soviet Union.
Goodnight Mommy: This horror film tells the story of twin boys who begin to question their mother’s identity after she returns from face-changing cosmetic surgery.
Goosebumps: Based on the popular series of young adult books by R.L. Stine, a trio of teenagers has to stop an army of monsters from destroying their town.
Marshland: Two detectives team up to solve a series of murders that have taken place in a small town in rural Spain. Screens through Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
San Diego Italian Film Festival: This event showcases the best in Italian cinema, featuring screenings of fictional narrative, documentary, and short films. Runs Tuesday, Oct. 13 through Saturday, Oct. 24, at various San Diego venues. For more information visit sandiegoitalianfilmfestival.com.
Steve Jobs: This biopic on the famous co-founder of Apple Computers is directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network).
The Bronze: Jealousy rears its ugly head when a foul-mouthed Olympic gymnast must fight for her local celebrity after a new young athlete gains increased attention.
The Winding Stream: This documentary looks and the influence and impact of the Carter and Cash families had on the country music industry. Screens through Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Victoria: Unfolding entirely in one take, a young Spanish woman gets caught up in criminal dealings while partying in Berlin.
One Time Only
Ghostbusters: When someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes! Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Vertigo: Jimmy Stewart has some kinky ideas about romance in Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco masterpiece. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 15 – 17, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Big Night: Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub star as bickering brothers who own a failing Italian restaurant. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, at The Hotel Lafayette in North Park.
Bass Clef Bliss: A young autistic man who has lost his ability to speak studies to become a talented musician in this documentary from Patrick Scott. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Is Anybody There?: Michael Caine stars in this English drama about a young boy growing up in a nursing home. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
The Third Man: Joseph Cotton tracks down squirrely Orson Welles in post-war Vienna in Carol Reed’s film noir classic. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the Mission Valley Public Library.
Back to the Future: Robert Zemeckis’ iconic action comedy helped make Michael J. Fox a star. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.