Sundance Film Review: The Forbidden Room

Posted January 29, 2015 in
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The Forbidden Room
“Ectoplasmic” Film: The Forbidden Room, Photo: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson

The Forbidden Room
Sundance Film Festival
Directors: Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson

Ah, this was the Sundance film I was waiting for! If you’ve seen The Saddest Music in the World, then you know what to expect from inveterate experimental filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson. In the post–Salt Lake–screening Q&A for this film, he divulged that it was shot digitally, but with the “ectoplasmic”—as he put it—character of film in mind; that which characterized 20th Century cinema because of the way that (literal) film ages. The plot is wacky, to say the least: It begins with submarine crew-men lamenting the catch-22 that a hallowed, volatile jelly hosted onboard would explode if they decrease their cabin pressure by rising to the surface, yet their oxygen levels dwindle. Enter Cesare, who somehow arrived to the submarine by freshwater. From here, the film retraces Cesare’s journey as a lumberjack woodsman questing to save the beautiful Margot from the Red Wolves forest gang, who allegedly kidnapped her. Margot is an amnesiac, however, and her story intertwines with many pathways of her/collective memory, which mimetically elicits amnesia for the viewer through multiple forays into related stories from a variety of characters. Maddin’s and Johnson’s intentional use of campy film tropes intersects with batty narrative logic ensconced by his pastiche of bygone filming techniques. The film weds graphic novel–minded framing and poetic logic gorgeously. Thus, the neo-surrealist feel of The Forbidden Room deems it a pure-art film well worth seeing. It’s a bit long, but the amnesia erases … wait—um … Ah, this was the Sundance film I was waiting for! –Alexander Ortega

Screening Times:
Time: Thursday, Jan. 29 @ 8:15 p.m. Venue: Prospector Square Theatre, Park City
Time: Saturday, Jan. 31 @ 6:15 p.m. Venue: Holiday Village Cinema 2, Park City