I received a number of reactions to my previous review of this documentary on Nordic LARP. It’s easy to describe and discuss things that need improvement, and in general, I’m inclined to view documentaries of LARP with trepidation. As a result, even though this particular documentary was among the better ones that I’ve seen, my review came off rather harsh and misrepresented my overall impressions. So I’m expanding on my review here, with a focus on the aspects of it I liked.
First of all, the LARP chosen was a great choice for a documentary. Some form of LARPs don’t translate very well to film. Notably, combat in fantasy LARP often looks particularly awkward on camera, at least in part because we’re so used to seeing professionally choreographed fight scenes in movies and on tv. This LARP, by contrast, was well captured on film. That the environment suited the LARP well, I think, helped make this a smart choice for the documentary.
I also very much appreciate that the camera crew fit into the LARP — it requires no stretch of the imagination to accept that the detainees in the LARP would be filmed during their interrogations and exams. I think it has the effect of making the audience feel less like they are watching from the outside, and more like they can understand the experience of the LARP itself. That the documentary filming was not interfering demonstrates respect for the LARPers.
I rather liked that they included shots of the character sheets, though they didn’t go into depth explaining them or show any players reading or reacting to them. Including some of what goes into a LARP prior to it running makes this documentary more complete in this way than many others.
The shots of the LARP creator in numerous high quality costumes from a variety of genre was also a very nice inclusion. It demonstrates the breadth and width of the medium, rather than giving the impression that all LARP is of one genre. (Many documentaries, by contrast, leave the viewers with the impression that all LARP is medieval fantasy.) Similarly, including the line that LARPs vary in duration helps demonstrate how much LARPs can differ in format from one another.
I like how they included a brief introduction to the “cut” and “break” rules before the LARP began. Along with closing shots of the players hugging and applauding after the LARP ended, and the way they juxtaposed shots of some of the more intense images (such as the LARPer whose head was dunked into a bucket of water) with shots of the player calmly and rationally explaining why she wanted to have this LARP experience, and what her impressions of it was, the documentary gave a very solid impression of how the LARPers are capable of divorcing the experience of the LARP from their real lives.
There’s a line describing the creation of the LARP, how it was written with the idea that “everybody needs to feel that they’re the center of their own story.” This idea that every character is the star from their own point of view is part of what gives writing LARP its own set of challenges unique from any other medium. Not every LARP writer buys into this theory, though it’s one I personally embrace and I’m glad to see it exists in other LARP communities.
And lastly, I must say, the narrator’s voice is golden. He sounds terrific.