Guy Maddin reluctantly returns to his childhood home, an abandoned Canadian island, where his parents ran an orphanage. As Guy fulfills his dying mother's request to paint the lighthouse which served as the orphanage, memories of strange events there overpower him. An undercover investigation by child author/detective Wendy & a revolt by the repressed children, blew open a cover-up by Guy's parents. Wendy disguised herself as her brother Chance and discovered that Maddin's inventor father performed outré scientific experiments on the orphans.Written by
With the exception of a few brief seemingly random shots, Brand Upon the Brain! is shot (or made to appear in post-production to be shot) in grainy black and white. The look is reminiscent of David Lynch's Eraserhead, a classic that may have been an influence, though the style is quite different. Maddin's film uses much more frenetic editing techniques, particularly frequent cutting to create an abrasive subliminal effect from which the title appears to be derived.
I use the term 'abrasive' and for some people that might be a negative, but I found it effective. The film uses captions and along with a neo-silent-era visual design, it has the effect of a coherent experimental film with a bizarre horror narrative. A man, Guy, returns to the island orphanage of his parents after a thirty year absence, on the request of his dying mother. It turns out the parents were subjecting the orphans to some peculiar activities from which Guy escaped.
I found the design, high-contrast lighting and editing techniques effective in conveying a bizarre nightmare-type of story, a horror film that is not entirely original in narrative nor design, yet original in its presentation. I liked the voice-over narration by Isabelle Rosellini.
There are some very attractive characterisations and depictions of inoffensive perversity. Definitely worth a look.
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