WWI. Deep in Russian snows, peg-leg Canadian soldier Boles, pining for his lost Iris, is billeted in Archangel with the family of the lovely Danchuk; but the addled Boles ignores Danchuk's feelings for him in favour of mysterious Veronkha, whom he mistakes for Iris, although she is really the spurned wife of a faithless Belgian aviator... Confused? No matter; so are the characters in this absurdist melodrama. Maddin's second feature is pitched straighter than Tales from the Gimli Hospital, but is every bit as inspired and patchy. Pastiche remains to the fore, with Maddin's acute sense of camp more historically motivated than before. Complete with hieratic '20s-style acting, the film is an extravagant mélange of All Quiet on the Western Front, Eisenstein and DeMille, all the more impressive for its cut-price mise en scène. The war scenes are extraordinary, although thrown in far too liberally; even better are the daft tableaux vivants which seem to comprise Archangel's only entertainment.
Cast and crew
Guy Maddin, George Toles