Due to working on his third film script Carlos Vermut is hidden somewhere in the mountains of Japan. Even his agent has no clue where he is exactly. And even if he did: Carlos is not to be disturbed. Unfortunate, but understandable: the director of Magical Girl is one of the most original minds in this world and original minds need some alone-time to stay that way.
Carlos Vermut gained his reputation as a cult-hero after debuting with Diamond Flash in 2011, a film he made with an impressively low budget of €20.000. He uploaded the film on the VOD platform filmin.es and within a week it reached thousands of views. Magical Girl is his second feature film and won all the top awards at the San Sebastian Film Festival last year.
Alicia, a terminally ill twelve-year old, dreams of wearing an outrageously expensive designer dress from her favourite Japanese anime figure: Magical Girl Yukiko. Her father Luis, an unemployed literature teacher, blinded with grief, wants to do everything to make his daughter’s last wish come true. In desperate need for money he decides to rob a jewellery store, but just as he wants to throw a rock trough the window, Bárbara, who lives above the store, pukes over him from her balcony.
Bárbara is a mentally unstable and also beautiful. She is married to a successful psychiatrist who controls her with medication. After a big fight he walks out on her and she tries to commit suicide, but is unsuccessful.
Bárbara invites Louis to her house where he, still overwhelmed, washes away the vomit. Surprised by the luxurious apartment, Louis sees his chance, seduces the confused Bárbara and turns to extortion.
With the tragic events, pitch-black humor, sexual motives and chain of blackmail: this moody, dark film has all the ingredients to be a classic film noir. Showing us the eternal conflict of the human soul struggling against its enemies.
But Magical Girl is much more than that. It’s a delicate story in which complicated human interactions form key points to the plot line. I assume the film therefore is sometimes referred to not only as film noir, but also as Korean genre film. Known for exposing moral complexity, Korean cinema often studies the relationship between casualties, responsibly, guilt and justice. Think of the vengeance-trilogy of Park Chan-Wook or films such as Kim Ki-Duk’s Pieta or 3-Iron.
Magical Girl, in her own special way, does something similar. As the story continues calmly, more and more people get mixed up until the brutal climax.
Director Carlos Vermut expresses in his director statement
“Characters make certain decisions, and the characters grow the way they do because the story puts them in that situation. Therefore, they are inseparable.”
Film noir, Korean genre film, Japanese anime: we rarely find films as unique as Magical Girl. And even though the director wasn’t available to explain why he needed to make this film and how the Spanish crisis influenced this film: you just have to come and see it.