‘The Magic Life of V’
Playing in the World Cinema Documentary competition of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Running time: 87 minutes; in English, and Finnish with subtitles. Next screening: Saturday, Jan. 26, 6 p.m., Salt Lake City Library Theatre, Salt Lake City; Sunday, Jan. 27, 3 p.m., Redstone Cinema 7, Park City; Thursday, Jan. 31, 9 a.m., Park Avenue Theatre, Park City; Friday, Feb. 1, noon, Holiday Village Cinemas 2, Park City.
Demons come in all forms, and the subject of “The Magic Life of V,” Tonislav Hristov’s moving documentary, has some big ones to slay.
Hristov introduces Veera, a young Finnish woman, at a “Harry Potter”-themed role-playing event in Poland, where she dons her robes, colors her hair blue, and assumes her character, known simply as V. We soon learn that V is Veera’s all-purpose name for various live-action role-playing (or LARP) events.
LARP is not just a hobby for Veera, but an escape from her life back home in snowy Finland. She cares for her brother, Ville, who suffered brain damage as a toddler and is barely able to live independently. In conversations with Ville, and sessions with her therapist, Veera also reveals the biggest monster in her life: Her alcoholic father.
With tightly framed close-ups and an eye for minute detail, Hristov lets the audience study Veera’s face and movements as she reckons with the memories of a troubled childhood. He also shows how Veera, as V, uses LARP — ranging from military-style mutant hunting to foam-rubber swordplay — to build up the emotional armor she needs to conquer her adversity.