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Vi short film review

★★★★

Written and directed by: Deyan Tsvyatkov

Starring: Jordan Rassin, Kostadinka Tosheva


 

A young woman sits at a computer in front of a large circuit board with electrodes attached to her temples.
Still from Vi

There are those in the world who subscribe to the hypothesis of Simulation Theory – that we are all just simulated characters in a Universe wide 'game', running out our selected algorithms for the benefit/pleasure/research of some superior race of god-like beings or aliens or future-usses. Elon Musk is one such subscriber (although this hardly counts as a recommendation); Neil deGrasse Tyson was another, stating that the likelihood was greater than 50/50 until he had his mind changed by a thoroughly robust counter argument. Whatever your thoughts on the issue, there's no denying that the idea has been fertile ground for a swathe of sci-fi stories and films. One such film is Vi, a Bulgarian made short from writer/director Deyan Tsvyatkov.


Victor (Jordan Rassin) is the creator of Vi, a computer based system which extracts emotional energy from brain activity created during a sleep-induced simulation and turns it into usable energy for computational processing. In short, it takes your dreams – or in this case nightmares as they carry more emotional charge – and turns them into electrical energy. Victor however, has been getting high on his own supply and has been overusing the system, ostensibly as tech support to patch up glitches and ensure smooth running, but also for more personal reasons.


After a seemingly random encounter with Laura (Kostadinka Tosheva) inside the system, he can't wait to keep getting back in there, to get inside her head and switch her daily nightmares into dreams. What Victor hasn't considered though, is that Laura won't remember any of this when she wakes up, and anything he achieves in the simulation will not be mirrored in the outside world. Such is Victor's own nightmare.


What Tsvyatkov has created then is a kind of mash-up between The Matrix and Vanilla Sky with just a hint of The Lobster thrown in for stylistic purposes. He builds an incredibly well realised world where Soviet-era structures and dial-up technology abound to provide that ubiquitous retro-feel, suggesting that we always tend to build our dystopian futures out of cast away nuts and bolts. Director of photography Dimitar Tenev ensures that we can clearly distinguish the outside world from that of the Vi system while visual effects supervisor Valentin Serafimov brilliantly brings the world of dreams to life with some truly spectacular visuals.


As you might expect from a short film of this nature, there's more to Vi than first meets the eye. At a first pass the narrative may not seem very strong, with a rather plain, cul-de-sac ending. However, the film almost requires repeat viewings, which it stands up to very well, and which will reveal extra plot points and visual suggestions that may have been previously missed. The lead actors all do impressive jobs of inhabiting their characters in this hyper-realised world and with their guidance Vi becomes somewhere that we want to visit again and again.


Vi is a stunning visual treat that borrows from the best in the simulated reality genre whilst adding its own unique twist and allowing the audience to work things out for themselves.

 

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