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A father and son ride the rails in their powerful locomotive. Witnessing a crash between two other engines, they rescue the lone survivor, Berenice, and make her a part of their family. All is well until the father and son become rivals for the girl's affections and perform a series of dare-devil feats to win her heart. She runs off with a zeppelin pilot, and, after Keller mounts a brief kidnapping attempt, the despondent men are left to their bizarre fates. Written by
Little substance for the casual viewer but plenty of style and imagination
A father and a son work the railway together and are happy until a day that they witness a crash. They rescue the sole survivor a beautiful woman called Berenice who they welcome into their small family. However with time the father and the son both fall for Berenice and the competition for her threatens to rip them apart but will she bring them the happiness they desire?
I saw this short film at a film night recently dedicated to showing several of Maddin's short films and his recent 'Cowards Bend at the Knee'. Despite the event being a little amateurish in its organisation, with a late start and 20 minutes spent watching a band tidy up in front of the screen, I enjoyed the evening and was glad for the chance to see several of the films for the first time. This film was one of the ones that I had seen for the first time and, like many of Maddin's films I struggle to get into it in the short period that it ran for. This I consider to be a problem with his shorts sometimes, unless you are really aware of his influences then you'll struggle to get the substance of the short (kind of like watching Shrek without any knowledge of popular culture you just wouldn't know what it was trying to do). However, the visuals are always impressive and even someone with only a passing knowledge of the silent movie period should be able to enjoy the sheer imagination and flair that Maddin directs with.
The substance here is weird very weird and in this regard it matches the visuals, which are also very strange, a bit unnerving and occasionally quite funny. Supposedly inspired by Redon's sketch, the plot is less important than the style and imagination. Bearing this in mind I liked the film for what it was but I suggest that only Maddin fans and those coming to him for the very first time will fall down and worship this film. I enjoyed it but contest that his best work is where he develops a firmer structure and clearer narrative to place his imagination within (Dracula & Cowards Bend at the Knee being two very good examples of this).
Overall, the casual viewer (such as myself) may find the substance lacking due to its reliance on us to know Maddin's influences etc but the style, pace and imagination in this short make it well worth watching just to experience it if nothing else.
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