Dir: Sebastian Schipper
Star: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit

The hook here is that the 138-minute film unfolds in exactly one shot. No cuts. No edits. Not even any convenient zooms into black to cover them up. So, let's honour cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grovlen, whose work was easily as important as any of the actors (and rather more so than the writers, considering the script was about a dozen pages, with the dialogue mostly improvised). Spanish waitress Victoria (Costa) is leaving a Berlin nightclub in the small hours, getting ready to go open up the cafe where she works, when she's snagged by four local young men, who convince her to come have a drink with them. One of them, Sonne (Lau) takes a shine to her and walks her back to the cafe, but it turns out Victoria's help will be urgently needed. One of the guys, Boxer (Rogowski) just got of jail, and the debt he incurred for protection there has just been cashed in, taking the form of a robbery - due to unforeseen unconsciousness, they suddenly need a driver.

I guess you have to suspend your disbelief to a certain point, though Victoria's willingness to come along is better handled than her remarkably naive willingness to wander off with four unknown men in the middle of the night. But there's no doubt the single-shot approach gives proceedings a great deal of immediacy and impact, along with the real-time manner in which things unfold. While it does take its time to get going [maybe the set-up should have had her already being friends with Sonne?], you are left with an amazing sense of how fast life can change. The Victoria we see at the end of the film, is very, very different from the one who's dancing in the club at the start of the film, just a couple of hours previously. To be honest, it is likely true the film survives mostly on its gimmick, as what we have here otherwise wouldn't pass muster as much: a bland heist movie, with the vague beginnings of a love-story thrown it. Still, it's a hell of a gimmick, and as a technical achievement, it certainly delivers something I haven't seen before; that's one key element of what cinema should be about.

[December 2015]

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