Tales from the Gimli Hospital

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

There’s inspiration, madness (like a fox?) and burgeoning genius all over the place here in arch-Manitoban Guy Maddin’s first feature film. Longeurs, too—he’ll need to work out his method and his mix. It’s all too almost—you find yourself with a nearly smile kind of stuck to your face, because the prospect of pleasure too infrequently leads to actual pleasure. Still, one is grateful. Here is a real talent, a singular sensibility, and a free man working too.

The frame story makes Tales from Gimli Hospital a parody of didactic tales and sagas both. Further, and I mean this very positively—its surrealistic asides approach the tremendous drollness of IainCrichton-Smith’s Murdo stories. The gap between the grandiose language and the comfortably low/no budget settings is really rich. Poverty of means automatically, and usually effectively, expose the emptinesses of excess. That’s familiar; maybe more importantly this is a regional film, not remotely interested in being coastal or cosmopolitan or anything. Maddin is reminding us that local girls in sheer shifts can be as pleasantly troubling as any notorious starlet. We need more of this! (The regionalism, that is. We’ll leave you to decide on the sheer shifts.) Also, note the blood dribble, the tree bark cutting, and that tectonic buttock-clutching battle that concludes the whole thing.

After all of that it’s back to the frame story, and the frightening prospect that this Manitoba-Icelandic woman is going to subject us to another ancestral yarn.