AKA Brand Upon the Brain! A Remembrance in 12 Chapters
“[Children are] constantly constructing, and then reconstructing and amending and annexing a model of their cosmos, their universe. The real joyous intoxications and wonderment come from building faulty models, and then tearing them down and rebuilding. But you never completely tear down your model, I think you just keep adding on to your faulty model of the way the world works. All if us, by the time we’re grown-ups, have built this really elaborate model, which we feel is right now finally. But at its very foundation, at the very bottom, its very earliest days, there are these errors that run like a motherlode through the ensuing years.”–Guy Maddin, “97 Percent True”
FEATURING: Sullivan Brown, Gretchen Krich, Katherine E. Scharhon, Maya Lawson, Erik Steffen Maahs, (narration)
PLOT: “Guy Maddin,” who has not been home in thirty years, returns to Black Notch, the island on which he spent his childhood, to fulfill his mother’s dying wish: to give the family lighthouse/orphanage two good coats of paint. The trip sparks Guy’s memory; he recalls when celebrity teen detective Wendy Hale arrived on the island to investigate the strange holes found on the back of orphan’s heads. Guy develops a crush on the detective, but Hale goes undercover as her own brother, Chance, and seduces Guy’s sister, all while investigating his dictatorial mother and mad scientist father on her way to uncovering secrets that will tear the family apart.
- Brand Upon the Brain! was funded (for a reported $40,000) by a Seattle-based nonprofit organization on the condition that Maddin use a local Seattle cast and crew. The film was shot in nine days.
- This is the middle entry in Maddin’s unofficial autobiographical trilogy, in which each film has a (different) protagonist named Guy Maddin. (The first was 2003’s Cowards Bend the Knee and the last was 2007’s My Winnipeg).
- The script was written with Maddin’s frequent collaborator Geroge Toles, but Maddin regular (who usually appears as an actor) wrote the narration.
- The idea of narration for a silent film was inspired by “explicators,” people who would be hired by theaters to explain visual and narrative concepts the audience might not get on their own during live screenings of silent films.
- Originally staged as a live event with a small orchestra (including a “castrato”) and foley artists, different performances featured different guest narrators, including Isabella Rossellini (who does the definitive reading), Laurie Anderson, John Ashberry, , ,
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The lighthouse lamp, an all-seeing orb, sort of a rotating papier-mâché rendition of the Eye of Sauron. Several of Guy’s family members come to bad ends before it.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Rumanian womb birthmark; holes in orphan’s heads; the undressing gloves
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: It’s another mad Maddin false autobiography! This time, the director imagines himself as the offspring of a mad scientist and yet another iteration of his domineering mother archetype, raised in a lighthouse among a band of orphans. Absurd but emotionally true memories are jumbled up, with a melange of archaic obsessions each taking their turn in the subconscious spotlight: teenage detectives, confused genders leading to confusing crushes, family members transfigured into zombies and vampires, with all of this lurid melodrama shot on blurry Super 8 and edited by a drunken, psychotic subconscious. Pure madness.
Original trailer for Brand Upon the Brain!
COMMENTS: “The past… into the past!” Memory is the theme of Continue reading 315. BRAND UPON THE BRAIN! (2006)