The Forbidden Room Canada 2015

Tuesday 5th January at 6.00 p.m.


This the latest film from the Canadian artist and filmmaker Guy Maddin. Maddin is a distinctive and unconventional filmmaker. His films do not offer straightforward narration and are full of ambiguous symbols. A reader on IMDB confessed to giving up on the film after an hour. It helps if you have some idea of what the 130 minutes of screen time will offer.

IMDB identifies a set of Trademarks in Maddin’s work

  • Trade Mark (5)
  • Films often imitate the visual look and special effects of the silent film era
  • Plots usually involve a series of complicated, entangled, unsuccessful love stories
  • Often uses motifs of sexual repression and errant perversity
  • Characters frequently suffer from amnesia, forgetting even their own marriages and loves
  • Many of his films are set in a mythologized version of his hometown of Winnipeg.

At least the first three of these appear in The Forbidden Room.  Maddin has also arrived in the UK to promote his film. In an online interview is the following:

“Still, The Forbidden Room is an experience worth having on the biggest screen you can find, as this is a film designed to overwhelm. …

“I’m glad you said ‘too much’ because I wanted the movie to be too much. You know, I have regrets about my ten other feature films because I always wish they were shorter; I feel I just called them finished a bit too soon and often a few months later I wished I could go back into the editing room and trim them, tighten the screws. The director’s cuts of all my movies would ironically be much shorter rather than longer. But this one, editing it was a counter-intuitive experience because I really wanted viewers to feel at the end that they had been washed up, panting on a far shore having just barely survived drowning in a narrative tempest.”

The phrase “narrative tempest” is probably the neatest summary of The Forbidden Room that you’re likely to find. … Maddin layers stories within stories within stories, pulling us ever deeper into a labyrinthine world that encompasses flapjacks, vampires, volcanoes, skeletons, moustaches, advice on the correct method for having a bath, …

All of this could be described as very Maddin-esque, but the roots of each story contained within The Forbidden Room actually lie in lost artefacts from cinema’s past. For the past couple of years, Maddin has been working on interactive work Séances. The project has seen the filmmaker collecting the titles and sometimes the plot synopses from films that are no longer extant and re-enacting them in his trademark frantic, surreal, hyper-stylised fashion. “

So possibly a challenging evening. But on past experience it will be rewarding and worth the effort. And it is worth noting that this is a film to be seen in a cinema and there are likely to be few opportunities to do that.

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