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6. Tales From The Gimli Hosiptal

Country Available: Canada, USA
Related Programs:
  • On Screen! II
  • 'On Screen! III
  • In Guy Maddin's amusingly nonsensical debut feature, a deadly pestilence rages through the idyllic northern Manitoba town of Gimli, sometime in the late 19th-century. Maddin takes impressionistic snaps of the jealous relationship between the delirious Einar (the delirious Kyle McCullough) and his rotund hospital-mate, Gunnar (Michael Gottli), who entertains the nurses with his good humor while Einar lapses in and out of consciousness. As they undergo non-conventional medical treatments involving seagulls, the two discover they have something in common: sexual relations with Gunnar's late wife (Angela Heck). Loosely based on Icelandic stories from the local Gimli Saga , Maddin's deadpan tone poem traps viewers in a somnambulistic loop of stories within stories. A disjointed series of self-hating Icelandic heritage moments filtered through a fishy surrealist sensibility and the entire vocabulary of silent cinema, ranging from Busby Berkeley to Erich von Stroheim, Gimli is possessed by a pre-Code morality encompassing homoeroticism, necrophilia, and a black-faced minstrel. Under lit from only one source, it marks the early work of a primeval fetishist: the camera focuses in on unusual body parts, like kneecaps, the space between eyebrows, and, in an odd Icelandic wrestling scene, the buttocks.

    Despite numerous obstacles, Maddin was able to make a small independent movie in Winnipeg, and with the help of partner-in-crime Greg Klimkyw, watched it grow into a cult success in the US and Canada, a midnight movie success like David Lynch's Eraserhead . This is all despite being rejected by the influential Toronto International Film Festival, who mistook the ambient, deliberately crackling soundtrack for amateurish. On a small (if not nonexistent) budget, with an amateur crew, and shot at Maddin's Aunt Lil's beauty salon, Tales from the Gimli Hospital was born, out of a love for silent and part-talkie cinema, and a desire to replicate the success of Winnipeg trailblazer John Paizs. It influenced a generation of Canadian filmmakers who were not afraid to express their independent vision on the screen, industry considerations be damned, from Atom Egoyan to Bruce Sweeney, and was the first film to showcase the unique vision of one of the world's most critically acclaimed directors.

    With their colourful stories about the non-traditional creation of the film, and much background information, are, of course, director Guy Maddin--who talks about the film from the shores of Lake Winnipeg at his Gimli summer home--and producer Greg Klymkiw, who at the time was also in charge of distribution of the legendary Winnipeg Film Group. Actors Angela Heck, now a National Film Board publicist, and, rarely interviewed, actor and Maddin surrogate Kyle McCullough (who later went on to star in Maddin's Careful and Archangel , and now is a staff writer for South Park ), also lend invaluable insight into the film's creation and the Winnipeg scene at the time. Others interviewed include graphic designer Jeff Solylo, costume and makeup director Donna Szoke, University of Manitoba film producers and Maddin confidants George Toles and Stephen Snyder, and filmmaker Noam Gonick, who directed the documentary Waiting for Twilight. Critics talking about the film include Canadian Film Institute director Tom McSorley, Toronto International Film Festival director Piers Handling, and Caelum Vatnsdal, author of Kino Delirium: The Films of Guy Maddin .

    View a printer friendly version of this page...Copyright Date: 2006 Length: 48 minutes Library Audience:
  • General Interest
  • Canadian Film Studies
  • School Audience:
  • 10-12
  • Post Secondary
  • Subjects:
  • Canadian Film Studies
  • Media Studies
  • Film Making
  • Language Arts
  • Formats Available:
  • DVD
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