Film - The Forbidden Room

The Forbidden Room

Now out on general release, The Forbidden Room was looked into at the BFI London Film Festival by Ren Zelen...

Directors: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson
Writers: Guy Maddin Evan Hohnson Robert Kotyk
Starring: Udo Kier, Geraldine Chaplin, Charlotte Rampling, Caroline Dhavernas, Matthieu Amalric, Maria de Medeiros


Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg, The Saddest Music in the World) and co-director Evan Johnson have created a phantasmagorical medley of weird and arresting tableaus which generate a hallucinogenic, dream-like state.

The movie evolved from the interactive Seances project with Maddin as the ‘medium’ channelling the spirits of silent films through improvised ‘live happenings’. These took place on sets in Montreal and Paris. The directors took the raw video and reworked all the palettes and colour-timing on over 4,000 hours of rushes, experimenting with super-imposition and adding entertaining inter-titles.

The film opens with an absurd 1960s-style instructional film on how to take a bath, starring an aging lothario. This soon segues into several odd fairy-tale-like stories, including a Canadian lumberjack on a mission to rescue a lovely maiden with amnesia who has been kidnapped by a group of wolf-men - a story concerning Udo Kier needing to be lobotomised to curb a lust for ‘derrieres’ – a group of doomed men on a submarine running out of oxygen– the ‘rebuilding’ of a beautiful woman broken in a terrible motorcycling accident – a thieving manservant and a murderously ambitious husband – the ghost of a father who can’t seem to leave his blind wife and young son, and yet others.

The stories weave in and out of each other, creating fantastic images which somehow delve playfully into our subconscious, yet manage to maintain their own individual flavour.

It’s an astonishing piece of work, calling on silent movie techniques and bizarre folk tales. The effect is vivid, dreamy, hypnotic and deeply atmospheric. The Forbidden Room rather defies any attempt at explanation or accurate description. It’s a visual and cinematic experience that needs to be seen to be appreciated.

Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2015 All rights reserved.

Image - BFI.