The only thing I knew about this movie walking into it was that it was all shot in a single take. Not the cheatyface Hitchcock/Joss Whedon “single take”, where cuts are disguised as fast pans or by zooming in on a character’s back. I mean one honest to god camera-rolling-continuously-from-the-moment-the-director-says-action-to-the-closing-credits take.
And it was really good. I will make one recommendation before you go to see this movie. Don’t spoil it. Don’t watch any of the trailers, don’t read any of the reviews. Don’t even look at what genre the movie is. All you need to know is that the movie is about a young woman named Victoria, who recently moved to Berlin on a working trip. At a nightclub she meets four friendly young men, and in the course of two hours, her life becomes extremely interesting.
More than that, I won’t say, because the movie is best enjoyed if you’re not sure exactly what genre it is. The movie begins by following Victoria on a standard night. She doesn’t know where the night will take her, and the movie will be far more enjoyable if you don’t know either.
Filming a movie in one take could easily have been gimmicky, but this movie used this feat of cinematography to create a unique and powerful movie-going experience. The film’s greatest strength is its ability to credibly pull off alarmingly rapid tone shifts, which would look and feel contrived if created in the editing room, but keep the audience there as they unfold in real time. The one extended shot creates a sense of urgency and forward momentum that is very rare in mainstream cinema.
The one downside of this movie is that it is exhausting to watch. I didn’t appreciate how much my brain relies on cuts and transitions when watching movies, if only to reset my attention span, until I had watched a feature length movie without them. But, again, the exhaustion is a testament to the fact that the movie kept my attention throughout its entire running time.
The acting in this movie is also fantastic. Lila Costa and Frederick Lau give very compelling performances as Victoria and Sonne, a young Berliner who she befriends. Even in the small, mundane quirks, which the long take unfailingly captures, their characters are extremely charming, and manage to convey a gauntlet of powerful emotions– regret, euphoria, guilt, and desperation. Alongside director Sebastian Schipper, they can take viewers along with them on an wild and gripping night.