Tales from the Gimli Hospital

1989 hospital drama

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A story within a story with a few stories within that story, this is mostly the tale of a guy called Einar who is admitted to the titular hospital during a smallpox epidemic. His bedside neighbor is Gunnar, and while they're initially friendly with one another, they eventually become enemies as they flirt with the nurses. Tension increases when Einar shares a story that links the two men's pasts. Then, they do this weird butt-grabbing thing called glima wrestling.

This is shane-movies hero Guy Maddin's first feature and the first I'd ever heard of him. While Maddin still borrows heavily from the imagery of nightmarish silent horror movies, this talkie reminds me more of Eraserhead than any of that stuff. The music's more cheery though. This is understandably not as strong as Maddin's later work, but it's nice to see that he just dove head first into the eerie and surreal. This has the feel of a movie made very cheaply on weekends with whatever friends or neighbors he could round up. I watched parts of this with the commentary, and it turns out that's fairly accurate. I also learned about the coincidentally named glima wrestling, apparently a real Icelandic sport, which was quite possibly the most entertaining thing I'll see all year. I don't want to spoil anything for all my readers who are wanting to rush to the Blockbuster to rent this film, but there is some pants tearing. This is chock-full of the kind of weirdo surreal imagery that is made even weirdo-er by the budget constraints, and like all Maddin's movies, you get some things that seem really odd but are actually remnants of the past of these people whose stories he's recording. Here, it's apparently Icelandic Canadians. An array of animals under the floorboards at the hospital. Well, that actually happened, used as an Icelandic method to heat rooms. Not sure what all that rubbing birds on people's wounds was all about though. I think that's what I like about Guy Maddin's movies actually. They make you nostalgic for things that didn't even happen to you, force you to remember dreams you never knew you had.

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