Exploring “The Magic Life of V” at Sundance Film Festival
If you’re a human on this earth, it’s very likely you’ve gone through some sort of hardship. How did you deal with it? How did you deal with the repercussions? For Veera, she enters a whole new world as a different person and works her way through her struggles with LARPing (live-action role-playing).
The Magic Life of V is a beautifully shot film by Bulgarian director Tonislav Hristov that explores the emotions of someone going through some life problems and shows how she comes into her own and becomes the hero of her own story.
Veera is a woman from Finland who has experienced severe trauma in her childhood due to an abusive father and has taken care of her mentally disabled brother well into adulthood. In creating her LARPing character, V, she is able to adopt an entirely new persona and become a new person, if only for a few days. However, after LARPing for so long, Veera begins to take her character’s strength and adopt it into her own life, thus, in turn, helping her move past all the hurt she has experienced.
This film is a part of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at Sundance and follows Veera around to her various adventures to show how LARPing helps her overcome her internal struggles and move forward with her life. Sitting down for an exclusive interview with MuggleNet, Hristov revealed that this film took a whopping five years to make and that they only filmed a few days a year.
The way I make films, they’re quite expensive. […] And to be honest, [in] the beginning, most of the financiers were not very excited about a film about LARPing and a girl with father issues. So it’s really hard to sell.
The amount of time it took to make the film, however, ended up working out well for Veera in the end, because after five years, she was ready to meet her father again after fifteen years.
For Veera, LARPing is more than a fun thing to do on weekends. She is very devoted, and that is part of what drew in Hristov and made him want to give her a platform to tell her story. He believes that LARPing allows her to draw strength from her character into everyday life.
My uncle asked me to go to hunting and fishing, and I cannot kill a fish. And then I went with him and then he gave me the fish, alive, and said, ‘Now cut the head and let’s have a dinner.’ And I know that I could never do this, but I’d been playing a hunter, LARPing for some time. So then I became my character and I just cut it and dealt with it. And this is exactly what I liked, the idea. They do believe that if you get a proper strength from your character, you can put it into your real life.
Some of Veera’s LARPing adventures take her to the College of Wizardry (COW) in Poland, where there are many nods to the Harry Potter world, such as a Great Hall and Sorting Ceremony. They spent nearly a week filming scenes for the documentary at COW.
Throughout the film, we get to see a full spectrum of human emotion from Veera – the highs and the lows. We see her relationship with her brother go through its share of trials. We see her grow and become a strong woman who takes control of her own narrative. The film is shot delicately and never once feels like Veera is “acting.” It’s as if the camera isn’t even there and you’re just on these adventures with her. This shows what a talented filmmaker Hristov is and what an impeccable job he does with making sure everyone is comfortable.
This film is one that documents the journey of self-acceptance rather than self-discovery.
Hristov has one message he wants viewers of the film to walk away with:
Well, to me, it was the amazing way of how she dealt by using these games and gaining strength with them. And I think that this is the message to me, that if you need to get stronger or you need to kill your demons, don’t be afraid to face them. Just build up your own strength and just go do it. Because this is the only way to move on with your life.
If you’ve been looking for something to use as an outlet to help overcome personal issues you may have, perhaps you should consider LARPing. I highly recommend that you see The Magic Life of V if you are given the opportunity.
To read the full transcript of our interview with Tonislav Hristov, click the toggle below!