A lot of the conversation about Victoria, a putative thriller that won’t win any awards for editing, will be about its astonishing technical wizardry. Fair enough. What a bravura piece of filmmaking from newcomer Sebastian Schipper. It’s exhausting to watch for many reasons, including the constant “how did they do that?” But what Victoria does even better than its gimmick is reveal unlikely characters in a story about falling in love.
The more you learn about these characters, who are one thing when you meet them and something else once you get to know them, the more Victoria pulls at you. The meandering “who are these people?” early moments eventually coalesce into a powerfully focused intimacy (the pattern is not unlike Irreversible, except without Gasper Noe’s aggressive in-your-face shock treatment). Love here is a mutually agreed upon dance with the devil, equal parts ominous and intoxicating, unable to break free of the hold of any given moment. Perhaps that’s the point of Victoria’s gimmick: to capture the heady immediacy of falling in love.
As bravura as the filmmaking are the performances from Laia Costa and Frederick Lau. She’s an Audrey Hepburn by way of Denise Richards, achingly frail and expressive. He’s, well, the sort of actor you would never find in a Hollywood production. His broad slab of face would suggest toughness if it weren’t for the kind eyes. A young Elias Koteas? That’s not much of a type. They’re not a typical couple. They don’t even speak the same language. Their relationship is characterized by verbal miscues and improvisational patter, by straying in and out of the frame, by not quite understanding how bad their choices are, by putting off the responsible business of just going home to go to bed. With such a powerful emotional connection driving the action, Victoria is far more exciting than a gimmick-based thriller.