An amnesiac soldier, seeking his lost love, arrives in Archangel in northern Russia to help the townsfolk in their fight against the Bolsheviks, all quite unaware that the Great War ended three months ago.
Lt. John Boles, a one-legged soldier, is assisting the White Russians in the Russian Arctic during World War I. He finds himself in Archangel, a crystalline city of spires and domes, inhabited by some very confused people. Boles loves Iris, who is dead, and meets Veronkha, whom he mistakes for Iris. But Veronkha is already married to Philbin, who forgets he is married to Veronkha. Veronkha thinks Boles is Philbin... Written by
L.H. Wong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the original script, Boles' false leg was lost before he arrives at the cottage in Archangel, and the leg was to be replaced by a harpoon. The harpoon would then be thrown at the life-size statue of the Holy Virgin (outside the cottage), piercing its eye. None of this made it into the final film, though the large "One-Eyed Virgin" statue does appear. See more »
The more Maddin I see, the more addicted I am to his unique style
Guy Maddin makes surrealist films in the style of classic movies. Here, he chooses vintage Russian agitprop cinema as his main point of reference (if you've seen "Potemkin" or "Man With a Movie Camera", you'll pick up on the similarities). While its nowhere near as successful as his later short film "The Heart of the World", "Archangel" is an interesting cross between "Eraserhead" and Sergei Eisenstein. The result is a film with a few visual cues which may recall earlier works by other filmmakers, but the mood, atmosphere, and mindset of the whole project is entirely Maddin's. Like any good experimental filmmaker, its obvious he only makes his films for himself.
"Archangel" isn't one of Maddin's more successful projects. For me, it lacks the rich psychological core he began exploring with his next film (and his masterpiece) "Careful". Also, there are moments when it begins to drag badly. It could've been cut by ten or so minutes and been much better paced. Maddin already had his vision, but his skills as a filmmaker had yet to be fully developed. Still, there are so many memorable visual sequences and the film is completely unique its worth watching in spite of these flaws. It has a certain authentic nature to both fever dreams and classic cinema which makes Maddin much more than just another filmmaker who continually references better works. "Archangel" isn't the best place to start, but its certainly recommended. (7/10)
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