Saturday 17 December 2016

Magicians: Life in the Impossible

I love magic. I’ve loved it ever since I was a kid, and it found its way into everyone’s primary school birthday parties, and end of year assemblies. It’s come a long way from the days of just stage magic – now we have magicians like Dynamo David Blaine who constantly defy the laws of everything. We only ever see one side of them though – the performing side – and not much else.

‘Magicians: Life in the Impossible’, directed by Marcie Hume and Christoph Baaden, was developed with the intention of showing more than just performance. It promises that we’ll see more than just the magic, and instead the struggles and challenges that each magician faces as they pursue their dreams of becoming famous wonders of magic.

Throughout the film we follow four magicians in particular – Jon Armstrong, David Minkin, Jan Rouvan, and Brian Gillis. Jon Armstrong astounds and confuses audiences with his card tricks; David Minkin specialises in the art of levitation; Jan Rouvan works alongside partner Frank Alfter as an illusionist, and Brian Gillis has been commended by Johnny Carson of ‘The Tonight Show’. They’re very different in style, but they all share an incredible drive to get somewhere within their careers.

Documentaries can be good for many reasons, but there are two that generally stand out more than others: the subject matter is astounding and gripping, or the storytelling comes across as powerful and intimate. ‘Magicians: Life in the Impossible’ initially seems like it would fit in the former category, but this documentary isn’t about how the magic happens – instead we are treated to the hidden mysteries behind the illusion.

What I really liked was that it was easy to focus on each magician’s stories, as it was all presented so sublimely. Nothing was lost by using fancy camerawork or dramatic plot twists, and instead the intimacy of the filming helped to generate a certain level of interest for each magician, despite their stories not being as overwhelming as they could have been. However, I didn’t feel it was quite as engaging as I had hoped – mainly because there wasn’t quite enough to pull you in. I cared about all of the magicians, of course, but I still felt like I needed a bit more.

I’ve got to admit though, I now know a lot more about the life of a magician as a result of watching this. It’s certainly not as easy job, as we can see by the things all four of these magicians have had to give up to get to where they are now. It’s hard, gruelling work, and it’s certainly nothing like the guarantee of an office job. As well as having to constantly please the audience there’s also the issue of high competition, which in turn makes the whole experience quite tense to watch at points.

As far as documentaries go, ‘Magicians: Life in the Impossible’ is both entertaining and informative. If you already have a bit of a thing for magic and want to know more about how it works, then I’d recommend it. I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking to become a magician as, in that respect, it’s more eye-opening than the magic itself. It may not be ground-breaking content, but the storytelling is enough to keep you captivated. 4/5


Hannah Read

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