Wizard of Winnipeg: Our Review of ‘Tales from the Gimli Hospital’ on MUBI Canada

Posted in What's Streaming? by - February 01, 2024
Wizard of Winnipeg: Our Review of ‘Tales from the Gimli Hospital’ on MUBI Canada

Guy Maddin, like most filmmakers, are interested in stories, but it’s as if he is arguing for the organic nature of stories. My Winnipeg is a contemplation of both the titular city as well as the family that revolved around his mother (Ann Savage). Stories come out of what happens to people as well as from what they observe. His first mid-length feature Tales From the Gimli Hospital takes a more palimpsest approach, depicting generations. A woman (Margaret Anne MacLeod) comforts her grandchildren (Heather and David Neale). Although, her methods may not exist for their comfort. Her story for them involves some Indigenous ‘representation’ (Don Hewak) but the key figures here are Icelandic Canadians Einar (Kyle McCulloch) and Gunnar (Michael Gottli). Gunnar seems special but his storytelling attracts attention, driving Einar to go after Gunnar’s true love, Snjófridur (Angela Heck).

Maddin’s method of throwing as many characters on screen may be his way of obfuscating the story to challenge his audience. He has other challenges up his sleeves, like introducing Einar’s fever dreams, sequences taking more than five minutes long. Repeat viewings always give rewards as it does here, if anything it makes things simple for his viewers. We see most of Tales From the Gimli Hospital through the covetous eyes of its antihero, Einar, yearning for love. Or the nurses huddling towards Gunnar as the latter tells his stories of generational curses within this main one. Or the silhouettes of the nurses undressing, the nurses who won’t give him time even if it’s their job. There are phenomenons here that the film doesn’t bother addressing, but they add to its mystery.

Mystery, more often than not, makes films more enchanting than one that regurgitates plot points to condescend to their viewers. I don’t necessarily know whether Maddin thinks that the people watching Tales From the Gimli Hospital are smart or not. But I don’t think that matters because this film is not about what people know but what they feel. Einar’s confessions to Gunnar shows him more as an antihero, the flashbacks here showing his darker side. Maddin depicts these flashbacks with simple but effective black and white cinematography with lights capturing his character’s darkest emotional states. He shows what most old school cinephiles know – that everything, even the worst things, looks better in black and white. Ambiguous morality is on display in the most unconventional canvas, a past askew, a fever dream organically forming.

Previously available only on video and DVD, you can now watch Tales From the Gimli Hospital via FilmsWeLike on MUBI Canada.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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