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In the Alpine village of Tolzbad in the 1800s, the townsfolk talk quietly and restrain their movements lest they incur avalanches. This atmosphere lends itself to repressed emotions - shown through the parallel stories of butler student Johann lusting after his mother (an old flame of the mysterious Count Knotkers) and Klara's attraction to her father (who lusts after his other daughter), leading to duels and suicidal plunges galore. All this is shot in the style of an early German sonal film, complete with intertitles, crackly sound-track and 'hand-tinted' colour effects. Written by
Michael Brooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Look at this, Grigorss, my mountain hideaway. The two of us can be outcasts here together. We need never see anyone but each other. We can live on berries and grasses, and small animals we can kill with sharp sticks.
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This is the second Guy Maddin film that I've seen (the other being "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs") and in both cases, the films wore out their welcome about half an hour in.
I enjoy the offbeat style of the humor, the intentional visual stylization patterned after early silent films (this one reminded me particularly of the work of Melies), and I have no problem with the flat acting style (which is an honest homage to early film acting) or the coloring (which, again, is based in films of yesteryear). Where Maddin's films run into trouble is, as soon as the novelty has worn off and the character based introductory jokes have played out, there is simply nothing beneath it all for the film to fall back on.
The story is actually very simple, yet it is so relentlessly bizarre that it borders on surrealism. So, either there is no deeper meaning to the story, or it's so far buried that it eludes me during the actual viewing of the piece. (Not that one can't come up with various things after the fact; I simply doubt that the director intended them or had any control over them if I can only interpret the vaguest elements of the story.)
The concept of Oedipal lust and such simply aren't enough to sustain a film of this length. Not in the way that they are handled anyway. The film is absolutely brilliant up until Johann dies. It then withers quickly, as the last real belly laugh comes in the first few minutes of "Part Two." The remaining hour or so limps along to a decent though unsatisfying end.
Guy Maddin is without doubt a clever and unique director, and I look forward to the day when I can say that I've seen him at his best. But he's far from it in this film in my opinion.
Endless homages to early films aren't enough to last 100 minutes... And perversity caused by child rearing needs to be handled more cleverly to take up the slack...
7 of 13 people found this review helpful.
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