Berlin: Is 'Victoria' Germany's Answer to 'Birdman'?

Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival

Sebastian Schipper's bank-heist-gone-bad competition entry was shot in one take without the use of digital trickery.

Victoria, Sebastian Schipper’s bank-heist-gone-bad competition entry, is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and features 22 locations. And it was shot in a single take. But unlike current Oscar contender Birdman, which used digital sleight of hand to achieve the impression of one take, Schipper’s film employs no such trickery.

“I’d been writing another film, when I started to fantasize about what it would be like to rob a bank,” says Schipper. “I thought I’d do the job with [friend and fellow director] Tom Tykwer, and another friend. And I got to thinking that there are a lot of heist films but few, very few, that give you the feel of what the experience is to rob a bank. That’s where I got the idea to shoot the whole thing — one hour before the robbery and one hour afterwards — in a single take.”

With the help of a Cannon C300 portable digital camera, Schipper set about making his heist movie as realistic as possible.

 

 

Reaching out “to a friend of a friend of a friend,” he found a group of real-life bank robbers to show him the ropes. At one point one of the “technical advisers” offered to take him on a job so he could experience a heist first-hand. He declined: “There’s no money in bank robbery. I know that sounds strange but if it goes well, you get maybe €20,000. And you need at least four guys: a driver, a guy at the door, two guys inside. So after the split, you’ve got €5,000.” The adviser also gave the director tips on how to reduce his prison sentence if caught, including taking drugs before a job, “so you are under the influence, and not as criminally culpable.”

While Schipper says his favorite heist films are Dog Day Afternoon and Heat, he insists real bank robberies, not movies, were his references for Victoria. “It’s like that quote from Francis Ford Coppola about Apocalypse Now: This isn’t a film about Vietnam, this is Vietnam,” he says. “This is not a film about a bank robbery. This is a bank robbery.”

 

 

Schipper and his team planned out the movement of every scene but left the blocking to the whims of the cameraman, “who worked like a war reporter, running alongside,” says Schipper, and the dialog to the actors, including Frederick Lau, Laia Costa and Franz Rogowski, who improvised all their lines.

They did three complete takes of the film. “It was three days of shooting, three takes and we’re done,” says Schipper. “It was an experience unlike anything I’ve ever had before on a film and unlike any I’m ever likely to have again.”

Feb. 9, 2:35 a.m. An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Tom Tykwer as the producer of Victoria. The Hollywood Reporter regrets the error.

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