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Guy Maddin
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Brand Upon the Brain!
dir. Guy Maddin / USA, Canada 2006 / 95’
subtitles: Polish and English
retrospective: Guy Maddin


Sullivan Brown, Gretchen Krich, Maya Lawson, Erik Steffen, Katherine E Scharhon, Todd Moore, Andrew Loviska, Kellan Larson, Cathleen O'Malley

Film description

Brand Upon the Brain! was inspired by macabre performances of the French Grand Guignol theatre, Zero for Conduct (1933) by Jean Vigo, the 1930s detective stories for teenagers and - as always with Maddin's films - by the poetics of silent cinema.

The main character of Brand Upon the Brain! (bearing the director's name, as in the earlier Cowards Bend the Knee and later My Winnipeg) returns to the island of his childhood to renovate the lighthouse he grew up in. The film is divided into twelve chapters in which Guy covers the lighthouse with new layers of fresh paint and reaches further into his memories. Everything has to happen again: the beautiful Wendy comes to the island, she disguises herself as a boy and seduces Guy's sister, Sis. The father, a mysterious inventor, performs macabre experiments and dies after being stabbed (but not for long). The mother spies on her children with giant telescopes and field-glasses, she calls Guy and Sis with a strange device - an aerophone which breaks down and keeps repeating and repeating messages.

Guy invokes ghosts from his past, hoping that this time he will understand, he won't get lost. But the past returns as a dim, nightmarish phantom and the main character cannot tame it, falling once again into the vortex of desires and fears, disgust and hidden delight.

Agata Rosochacka

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