Review | "The Forbidden Room"
Maddin's work has always been deeply rooted in silent avant-garde, and it's great fun watching him play with the medium in so many different ways. The Forbidden Room showcases Maddin at his most experimental and playful (who else would bookends a film with an instructional video on how to take a bath?).
Each frame is a fantasia of oversaturated color, jump cuts, missing frames, and grainy, damaged footage. The film feels deteriorated, like a relic from another time. Yet there is something warm and familiar about it, even at its most alien. Maddin clearly loves film, and The Forbidden Room is a celebration of the artificiality of the medium. Nothing about it feels real, as Maddin embraces the sheer movie-ness of it. Natives dance around a papier-mâché volcano, characters walk in front of obviously painted backdrops, it embraces its fakery and uses it as a deliberate style choice rather than a crutch.
It only seems natural, given Maddin's obsession with lost films, that he would one day create a "lost" film of his own. It's surprising just how well these disparate fragments all fit together, yet they seem to create one cohesive whole. At least as cohesive as a Maddin film can be. Maddin thinks in abstracts, he makes films that you feel rather than "understand," and The Forbidden Room evokes a forgotten aesthetic that feels as if we have unearthed a buried treasure. Only Maddin could create something that looks like a relic yet feels so fresh and new. It's a tour through Maddin's favorite predilections, a darkly hilarious, thrilling, and strangely moving amalgam of some of his previously lost ideas, resurrected here with fiery new life.
GRADE - ★★★½ (out of four)
THE FORBIDDEN ROOM | Directed by Guy Maddin | Stars Charlotte Rampling, Udo Kier, Mathieu Almaric, Louis Negin | Not Rated | Now playing in select cities.