THE FORBIDDEN ROOM is Guy Maddin's ultimate epic phantasmagoria. Honoring classic cinema while electrocuting it with energy, this Russian nesting doll of a film begins (after a prologue on how to take a bath) with the crew of a doomed submarine chewing flapjacks in a desperate attempt to breathe the oxygen within. Suddenly, impossibly, a lost woodsman wanders into their company and tells his tale of escaping from a fearsome clan of cave dwellers. From here, Maddin and co-director Evan Johnson take us high into the air, around the world, and into dreamscapes, spinning tales of amnesia, captivity, deception and murder, skeleton women and vampire bananas. Playing like some glorious meeting between Italo Calvino, Sergei Eisenstein and a perverted six year-old child, THE FORBIDDEN ROOM is Maddin's grand ode to lost cinema. Created with the help of master poet John Ashbery, the film features Roy Dupius, Clara Furey, Louis Negin, Mathieu Amalric, , Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin, Maria de Medeiros, Jacques Nolot, Adèle Haenel, Amira Casar, Elina Löwensohn and Udo Kier (and more!) as a cavalcade of misfits, thieves and lovers, all joined in the joyful delirium of the kaleidoscopic viewing experience
Guy Maddin may not be your favorite filmmaker, but he's one of the more memorable ones. Even the biggest film buffs out there, rarely give up Guy Maddin's name when discussing movies and filmmakers. He is more or less forgotten until he releases one of his many short films or insane feature films that is almost always critically acclaimed, but falls into the category of the strange and unusual. With past films such as 'My Winnipeg', 'The Saddest Music in the World', and 'Keyhole', you have come to expect a certain kind of bizarre hypnotic state from this Canadian filmmaker, who makes films not for the masses by any means, but for himself to test his own artistry and push the bounds of the art world forward to something we really haven't seen.
That brings us to his most recent endeavor 'The Forbidden Room', which can be a bit of a challenge to digest for pretty much everyone. How would one really describe this film to anyone? I guess you could say this is a mixed bag of warped stories of almost every genre that really never form a cohesive narrative plot, but is rather a collection of dream like sequences with different styles of filmmaking, sounds, and images that will certainly be permanently etched in your mind for a long time to come. Each little scene is stranger than the one before it, and no story seems to be connected whatsoever.
The one story that seems to be more or less a constant in 'The Forbidden Room' is a story about a submarine crew who are searching for their missing captain as their oxygen runs out. The turn to eating flapjacks, as they think the flapjacks (that contain air bubbles) will further their life expectancy. I couldn't make that up if I tried. There is even a "How-To" segment on taking a bath. There are vampire bananas, a guy who loves his pillow and needs a gardener, a man who is obsessed with lady's butts, and a guy who is on the run from women skeletons who want to sell him insurance. There is no real rhyme or reason to any of this, other than to show some sort of bizarre emotion or action.
It's as strange as it is brilliant, and you'll never see anything like it again. You won't really recognize anyone in the film, and the picture itself looks like it was hiding underground, surrounded by rats and garbage, but that's all part of this artistic experience that Guy Maddin and his co-director Evan Johnson wanted you to see. Ironically, the film looks like it could've been for decades ago, however there are very modern techniques and ideas at work here, which is presented even and flawlessly, even if the story is not. Running at two-hours, this jumbled mess of scenes won't connect with everyone. It even won't connect with most people, but if you're in the mood for something so different and unexplainable, then you're in for a real treat here.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Forbidden Room comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc that is Region a locked from Kino. There is a 26 page booklet inside, containing two essays. The disc is housed in a hard blue plastic case.
'The Forbidden Room' comes with a strange 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. With this artistic and experimental film that showcases a variety of different stories, all presented in a different visual, there is no real steady way to tackle this video presentation. Maddin has manipulated his image in each scene to give it a washed out or trashy look as if this film was made a long time ago. Other scenes look better than others, but I wouldn't say this picture is crystal clear, but rather grainy and dirty.
Detail does look good though in some closeups that reveal some good facial features on the actors and some decent stitching in the costumes. Colors look good, however they are saturated in such a way that everything seems to be either decaying or brighter than they should be. Black levels are very deep and inky and skin tones are mostly natural. There was some banding and video noise detected, but with everything going on in this film, you won't seem to notice.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and is just as strange as the video presentation. Surprisingly, this is fairly energetic audio mix with sound effects and ambient noises coming from the surrounds at full force. The sounds are anxious and neurotic at times, which keeps in theme with the film.
Dialogue is muddled, but that was the intention here, however you won't be lost at any given time with what's being said. The score is sweeping and chaotic as well. The bass kicks in with the bigger music moments as well. There are some added pops and cracks for the desired effect this movie tries to convey, leaving this audio presentation a solid one, yet weird.
Audio Commentary - Directors Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson discuss this insane movie, bringing up how strange the shoot was and how they avoided taxes making the movie. They also talk about casting the film and some of the camera tricks they used. Hilariously enough, they even bring up how weird and draining the movie can be.
Endless Ectoloops (HD, 9 Mins.) - Here are some abstract images of faces, morphing into something else.
Living Posters (HD, 3 Mins.) - This is more or less an ectoloop from above, but with promo art of the film.
'Once a Chicken' (HD, 7 Mins.) - An interesting short film that is silent and black and white. Very weird indeed.
Trailers (HD, 4 Mins.) - A couple of trailers for the film.
Booklet - A fully illustrated booklet at 26 pages with essays by Hillary Weston and Guy Maddin.
'The Forbidden Room' is one of the stranger films I've ever been lucky enough to see. It's like Guy Maddin took some of his odd ideas and put them on film in little segments. I imagine this is something that Alex DeLarge from 'A Clockwork Orange' would have loved to watch every week with his fellow droogs. The film is beyond imaginable and original, and mixes old school with modern technology very well. There's just nothing quite like this film. The video and audio presentations are solid and the extras are just as strange as the film itself. If you want to take that leap into this bizarre world, you won't be disappointed. Recommended!