Another wildly imaginative and striking short-film from the endlessly inventive Guy Maddin
A four-minute masterpiece of music and movement, montage and more; Sombra Dolorosa (2004) is typical of director Guy Maddin's work, filled with archaic film references and an appropriation of silent cinema conventions to tell a vague and enigmatic story that plays out in a dreamlike and metaphorical world rich in visual symbolism. Although Sombra Dolorosa isn't a silent film, as such - it does feature snippets of Spanish dialogue and a densely layered soundtrack of music and atmospherics - it still borrows heavily from the style and tone of silent cinema in a way that is reminiscent of The Heart of the World (2000) or elements of Brand upon the Brain! (2006). In this respect, we have the incredibly quick cutting style and bombardment of visual information that reduces narrative to mere montage; as well as the use of on-screen captions and inter-titles, which present to us the information that is spoken on the soundtrack in a manner that is deconstructive, but also slyly satirical.
Though the worry of being overwhelmed by the rapidity of the on screen information and the complete genius of the director's mise-en-scene is always apparent with Maddin's work, Sombra Dolorosa is never inaccessible. In fact, it is fairly easy to pick apart and interpret the vague semblance of narrative if we carefully follow the information as it appears on-screen; with the director gleefully taking influence from Latin American melodrama, with its roots in arts and magic-realist literature to chart a tale of lost love, life and death, and the extraordinary ability to overcome. It is, like the vast majority of Maddin's work, an absolute marvel of film-making energy and imagination, with the presentation of suicide attempts, death and regeneration, and that striking image of a wrestling match between a widow and the grim reaper all working alongside that continually striking use of colour, composition, music, design, performance and all to create a one-off visual experience that is sure to delight and overwhelm.
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