Dream of Aces

By Emir Kumova | Drama
A magician goes to a secret show -- and performs the trick that changed his life.

Norberto is a professional magician invited to perform at a "palace of magic." This is no ordinary show, however. It's a secret showcase in front of other magicians, who will choose to vote him into the magicians' hall of fame based on his performance.

But Norberto uses the opportunity to do more than perform. He delves into the story of how he became a magician, thanks to his life-altering relationship with his mentor, Charly Brown. In doing so, he reminds his audience of the true nature of magic.

Based on a true story, this polished, elegant short drama -- directed by Emir Kumova from a script co-written by Norberto Jansenson -- has a stately classicism, adding gravitas to an emotionally compelling tale about the magic of connection. It pays tribute to the craft of magic in its attention to detail, and watching cards flow like water in the magicians' hands is a treat unto itself. But the film's real sleight of hand is its emotional impact, realized with patient storytelling and heartfelt meaning.

Mirroring Norberto's thoughtful demeanor on stage and in life, there's a polish and dignity in the craftsmanship, with its rich cinematography, gorgeous musical score and smooth camerawork. The pacing of the storytelling is also on the deliberate side, taking its time to establish a secret world of magicians that's intriguing as the craft itself.

The palace of magic is a fascinating rite, but the heart of the story is Norberto's relationship with Charly. Young Norberto -- played by real-life magician and illusionist Norberto Jansenson as an adult and young actor Felipe Rosarios as a child -- is enchanted by Charly's remarkable tricks and his professional elan. He's especially captivated by Charly's trick of the "dream of aces," which comes to represent the mystery of the man, and perhaps even life itself. But when tragedy strikes, young Norberto must forge ahead on his own to learn Charly's signature trick, in tribute to his teacher.

In "Dream of Aces," Norberto, in many ways, travels the path that his mentor couldn't finish. Not only does Norberto keep Charly's trick alive, but he unexpectedly completes the unfinished business of Charly's personal life, detailed in a moving final movement of the narrative. In doing so, it also brings Norberto peace and resolution for his sadness -- and the true meaning of what it means to make magic. The film's last words are profound and wise, casting a spell over viewers to take into their own lives.

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