The Forbidden Room Review: Dreams and Cinema Collide

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Guy Maddin’s abstract comedy visits the forgotten realms of cinema history as vividly and intimately as one could imagine. The Forbidden Room interlocks snippets of adaptations of lost films through non-sequiturs to try and build a somewhat cohesive narrative. Think Cloud Atlas with 75% of the story (and way more than that of the budget) taken out.

Instead, the stories within stories feel like dreams passing by with a purposeful randomness over the course of a night. The film starts with instructions for how to take a bath, before we end up in a submarine, and then in the woods, and so on and so on. Maddin’s absurdist sense of humor is largely what keeps this artsy fartsy monster at bay. But there’s also a romantic passion for the the very root of film that makes this abstract piece a little more accessible.

Still, the limitations of this type of work come into the play. The climax is rousing, but not in the way a conventional film’s would be. That is to say, watching ten climaxes to stories that sort of came out of each other all within the span of a few minutes doesn’t have the same effect as a film with just one plot to conclude. This is a wholly unique cinematic experience. That’s not necessarily an endorsement so much as it is a warning label. This isn’t an experience for everyone, but those who it is for will eat it up and be ready for seconds. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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