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Guy Maddin
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Tales from the Gimli Hospital
dir. Guy Maddin / Canada 1988 / 72’
subtitles: Polish and English
retrospective: Guy Maddin


Kyle McColluch, Michel Gottli, Angela Heck, Margaret Anne MacLeod, Heather Neale, David Neale, Dom Hewak, Ron Eyolfson, Chris Johnson, Donna Szöke, Tiffany Taylor, Linda Schinkel, Jeff Solylo, Randy Kray, George Toles

Film description

The title Gimli, of Maddin's second feature-length film, is a small village on Winnipeg Lake where immigrants from Iceland proclaimed the Republic of New Iceland in 1876. New Iceland survived until 1887, but its inhabitants were plagued by diseases and calamities including the most tragic smallpox epidemic which decimated the population of Icelanders. A hundred years later, in 1970, members of the Gimli Women's Institute edited a 600-page Gimli Saga - a collection of local legends. Maddin was somehow amused and intimidated by the work's momentum and decided to adapt it. He chose the most tragic event - the epidemic.

The Canadian director made an incoherent mosaic with cracks and blurred fragments. Tales from the Gimli Hospital are structured layer by layer. Maddin restores their salvaging power, letting them act like a tranquiliser, as a theatre helping patients through a surgery. These stories help us cope with shame, pain, death. They make the world unreal and joke at it tenderly.

The film's narrative frame is a contemporary tragedy: in the Gimli Hospital a mother of two young children is dying. Her husband cannot stand staying with her and he leaves their children with their grandmother who "tranquilises" them with a story about the epidemic. Maddin intertwines this story within a thick network of legends, dreams and hallucinations.

Agata Rosochacka

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On the 30th July at the Wrocław Opera there will be a screening of the silent film The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) by Lotte Reiniger with live music performed by Geoff Smith.

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