A submarine crew, a feared pack of forest bandits, a famous surgeon, and a battalion of child soldiers all get more than they bargained for as they wend their way toward progressive ideas on life and love. In an ode to the lost movies of the silent era, Canadian auteur Guy Maddin and co-director Evan Johnson embark on their ultimate epic phantasmagoria in 'The Forbidden Room'. Honouring classic cinema while electrocuting it with energy and featuring appearances by Charlotte Rampling, Mathieu Amalric and Geraldine Chaplin, this Russian nesting doll of a film takes viewers high into the air, around the world, and into dreamscapes, spinning tales of amnesia, captivity, deception and murder.
Toxic Leotard Skeleton Women Versus Overripe Banana Vampires!
- The Forbidden Room review by Count Otto Black
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You rated this film: 4
What sets this film apart is its staggering level of non-stop inventiveness. Not a single frame of it is quite like anything else you've ever seen, except those century-old German expressionist silent movies where anything could and did happen, if you've seen them in slightly imperfect prints with the original hand-tinting lovingly restored but all the scratches left in. Only crossed with "Un Chien Andalou", "Eraserhead", and a print of "White Zombie" that's had paint thinner spilled on it.
This is also what prevents it from being a masterpiece. There are more than enough ideas here for a trilogy, let alone one movie, but the structure of the nearest thing it has to a plot - multiple barely-connected stories nested within one another so that although none are longer than 15 minutes, some have a gap in the middle lasting an hour and a half - feels more like a clever way to turn a lot of unconnected short films into a feature than an actual movie, and eventually becomes incoherent in the most literal sense of the word. Guy Maddin seems to have forgotten how much the power of "Un Chien Andalou" was diminished in its semi-sequel "L'Age d'Or" (which has a similarly chaotic structure to this film and was obviously a major influence) because this kind of random bizarreness isn't really sustainable over feature-film length. At very nearly two hours, "The Forbidden Room" stops looking quite so novel long before the end, and starts to get a bit tiring. I should also add that, in the same way that watching "The Blair Witch Project" caused some people to feel seasick, if flickery old home movie footage is hard on your eyes or gives you a headache, this film definitely won't be much fun for you!
All the same, it manages to be laugh-out-loud funny more often than a lot of so-called comedies, and packs more imagination into every ten minutes than the average superhero franchise spreads over ten hours (for about a millionth of the cost), which are clearly things to be encouraged. If Guy Maddin could escape from the art-house ghetto and meet the mainstream movie biz halfway, I'd love to see the results - "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" done properly, perhaps? Or even The Goddam Forties Batman versus Hitler? In the meantime, we've got this film to be going on with, and it's certainly different. Probably too different for a lot of people, and certainly not perfect, but if you're in the mood for a profoundly weird movie that you don't have to take seriously for one second, it'll be years before anything else comes along that's both as strange and as silly as this.