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Is it possible to shoot a full-feature film in one single take and still succeed to make a broad audience watch it and like it? German filmmaker and actor Sebastian Schipper proved you can do it!

victoria-2015-poster-e1446838824374-610x350When his newest film “Victoria” came out this summer, it blew the spectators mind’s twice. Firstly, by delivering a captivating storyline of a young Spanish woman, named Victoria (Laia Costa), which is slowly drawn into a bank robbery by local Berlin criminals. Secondly, because the film was entirely shot in one 135 minutes lasting sequence shot. That means that it was fully composed on set in one final camera-shot and does therefore not contain one single cut.

victoriaHaving already produced several feature-films for cinema and looking back to a year-long acting experience, Schipper compares the shooting of Victoria like returning to his first film-set: ”I managed to break free and be stupid again, be fearless again.” This feeling energetic is easy to comprehend when one thinks of the difference between standard filmmaking and a project like Victoria. Everything has to be planned in advance and rehearsed, so that when the actual shooting takes place, the camera can capture what we later see on screen. Without any errors and interruption!”. The time during which the director can influence the final product is compromised and limited. He cannot intervene in the actual shooting and has to fully trust his actors and the rest of his crew’s performance. There are no magical editing tricks possible but the worst footage can often still be turned into a good film. This totally different form of making movies a new experience for Sebastian Schipper as well as for the actors he worked with, who also got the chance to really live the action, fot the first time, without being constantly interrupted. This way, they were able to develop a deep identification with their characters. One can vividly feel their presence while watching the film. On the other hand there are also a lot of disadvantages in working this way: The whole project can easily go wrong. It was at no point evident that “Victoria” would ever to be seen in cinema at all. The entire production relied on the utopian idea that it was possible to make it. The budget allowed only three takes. The first two takes went wrong, according to Schipper, if the third hadn’t been successful, the entire project would have been ruined. “It all started because I had a daydream of a bank robbery” says the 47 year old director in an interview with the film-magazine indiewire. Luckily, rather than becoming criminal and actually robbing a bank he decided to develop a script, inspired of his urge to feel the thrill that you might encounter when robbing a bank. But in order to be able to translate his script into moving images, Schipper felt that he had to leave the conventional film production cycle, and make one single sequence shot: “You’re out of the standard, ‘good boy trying to get an A’ thing.”

Victoria_StillThe film “Victoria” is not the first of its kind: Alexander Sokurov’s “Russian Ark” which was released in 2002 also has no cuts. Nevertheless, the decision of sequence shooting an entire movie rests a rather extraordinary approach. Not to mention the great financial risk that is taken by producing a film in real time. This is why Sebastian Schipper always had a backup  in mind and on hand: “Plan B was to do a jumpcut version. That’s how I got the financing.”

If the film industry is now going to be more willingly to support projects like Victoria is a question to which the future only can answer. It would definitely be a great refreshment to see more hair-raising films à la Victoria in the cinemas.

Written by Nils Ramme



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