This feels like an exquisite corpse assembled from every leftover idea that cult Canadian director Guy Maddin has ever had. All the scenes here were allegedly pulled from cinema’s great abandoned films.
Following a brief prologue by the poet John Ashbery, we’re deposited into the bowels of a rickety submarine which can’t surface because the change in pressure would detonate the slabs of explosive pink jelly on board and kill all the crew. Then it’s off to the mountains, where a burly woodsman is determined to rescue a local beauty from a clan of cave-dwelling savages. From there, the characters pile up faster than you can keep track of. Maddin has never worked with such an enormous cast (including Charlotte Rampling, Udo Kier and Clara Furey).
But it’s Mathieu Amalric who seems to have the most fun. The actor gleefully indulges in Maddin’s pure and florid sense of melodrama, which here becomes a mechanism for foolhardy and paranoid men to ruin their lives as they attempt to rescue, love, or murder the beautiful women who didn’t ask for their help.
For all its innumerable pleasures, however, ‘The Forbidden Room’ can feel like too much of a good thing. Nevertheless its stories are rapturous and at a time when everyone is talking about the death of the movies, Guy Maddin proves that we can always bring them back to life.