Film Reviews

Review: ‘The Magic Life of V’

Hot Docs 2019


The Magic Life of V
(Finland, 85 minutes)
Dir. Tonislav Hristov
Programme: World Showcase (Canadian Premiere)

The Magic Life of V opens with V, the original character created by Veera, who is headed to a live-action roleplay (LARP) camp. In the Harry Potter-esque world, V and fellow LARPers don cloaks and chant spells. But Veera, breaking character, struggles emotionally. Tied to her character is her real-life trauma, and despite the fantasy of her situation, Veera’s memories are being brought up. Persevering, V participates in a ritual to expel her negative memories, to emerge healed and stronger.

Moving away from the LARP camp, Tonislav Hristov’s film explores Veera’s personal life: her home with her mother and brother, her therapy sessions, her LARPing preparations, and home videos from childhood including a disturbing look at Veera as a happy toddler, who we know was violently abused by her father. This is the source of Veera’s trauma, and while we do see her working through her past with a professional, it is LARPing which is the most therapeutic outlet for her. In character as V, she can shed her trauma, be supernaturally powerful, and escape her identity in a fantasy world of witches and swordfights.

The LARPing in Hristov’s film is engaging in its creativity, and Veera is a sympathetic and engaging figure, but the film is missing something. Dwelling on shallow drama, we learn little of what it means to cope. Hristov eschewes this in favour of gory details of abuse, a fetishization of LARPing (which is respectfully depicted as a significant method of healing, but always at a distance, as a spectacle), and shots of a pensive Veera gazing into the distance. While an intriguing concept, The Magic Life of V would have benefitted from a more intensive look at trauma, and LARPing, rather than simply skimming the surface.

The Magic Life of V screens:
-Wed, May 1 at 9:45 p.m. at TIFF Lightbox
-Thurs, May 2 at 3:30 p.m. at Cineplex Scotiabank
-Sun, May 5 at 9:00 p.m. at TIFF Lightbox

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