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Tales From the Gimli Hospital

Director: Guy Maddin

Canada| 1988. Black and white. 72 mins.


Some time in the late 19th century, a deadly pestilence rages through the idyllic Manitoba town of Gimli, where a jealous relationship develops between the delirious Einar and his rotund, jocular hospital mate Gunnar. As they undergo unconventional medical treatments involving seagulls, the two discover something they had in common: sexual relations with Gunnar’s late wife. . . . A disjointed series of Icelandic heritage moments filtered through a fishy surrealist sensibility and incorporating the entire vocabulary of silent cinema, Tales from the Gimli Hospital is possessed by a pre-censorship morality that encompasses homoeroticism, necrophilia and a black-faced minstrel. It’s the early work of a primeval fetishist in which the camera focuses in on unusual body parts like kneecaps, the space between eyebrows and, in an odd Icelandic wrestling scene, a buttocks. Made over eighteen months with a script jotted on Post-It notes, Gimli Hospital was notoriously rejected by Toronto Film Festival programmers who mistook the crackling ambient soundtrack for amateurism. They were wrong. Maddin describes it as ‘a picture inspired by the need to wake all my dead Icelandic loved ones with slaps to their cadaverous faces.’

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