The Forbidden Room, review: ‘A hateful experience’

The Forbidden Room. Picture: Kino Lorber, Inc.

The Forbidden Room. Picture: Kino Lorber, Inc. - Credit: Archant

Guy Maddin’s rambling, dream-like phantasmagoria is guelling and precious, but there is some satisfaction to be had here, writes Michael Joyce.

Guy Maddin, the avant garde Canadian film maker with a fetish for recreating the look and style of silent cinema and the early talkies, is closer to video artist than mainstream movie maker and The Forbidden Room is like something you might see projected onto the wall of the Tate Modern. Except this has stars, some exceptional visual effects, and you can’t wander off non nonplussed after a couple of minutes.

Maddin wants two hours of your time to show you what may be his magnum opus, a rambling, phantasmagoria of stops and starts, bits and bobs. In a submarine carrying an unstable cargo of gelignite the already jittery crew suddenly discover a lumberjack aboard; next we see said lumberjack in the forest trying to rescue the beautiful Margot from the wolfpack that has captured her; and on and on it goes, stories within stories, dreams within dreams flowing into each other and then doubling back to catch up with the vignettes later on. This is a film that comes close to replicating the logic of a dream but only if this Finnegan is a film archivist whose subconscious is filled with title cards, back projection, black and white, and rocket ships held up by string.

The concentrated visual intensity of it (almost all of the film is shot in close up) and the garish colour scheme makes it a hard, almost gruelling film to get through. I found it precious, garish and twee, a hateful experience, yet as the lights came up there was a certain satisfaction at having made it to the end.

Rating: 2/5 stars


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