RKS Film: “Tales from the Gimli Hospital” (Redux)

Gimli is a small town in Manitoba, Canada. In 1983 an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Edmonton ran out of fuel and miraculously coasted from 41,000 feet to an airfield in Gimli Manitoba. So I was piqued in seeing “Gimli” as part of the title to “Tales from the Gimli Hospital”.

Welcome to a fish obsession

Written and directed by Guy Maddin in 1988 “Tales from the Gimli Hospital” was one of those artsy films without any hope for commercial success. Well the creaky film has been the beneficiary of a 4K remastering shown at the most recent Toronto International Film Festival.

The promo material I received indicated the film was a “cult classic” on the midnight movie circuit. In the cult classics “Reefer Madness”, “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Night of the Living Dead” the plot may have been simplistic but was loved by many. In “Tales From the Gimli Hospital” the plot may be simplistic but its extremely artsy production may cause many viewers quickly to lose a connection with the film.

Gunnar and Einar the Lonely are in quarantine (sound familiar?) due to some plague that leaves strange scars on the bodies of its victims. The hospital is in a barn and the animals below heat the hospital above which is more like a barn than a hospital. And the nurses are lithe and in revealing uniforms. We see the tales of Gunnar and Einar the Lonely so you will be presented with a plot that is understandable. Given COVID the film may have some relevance with quarantine, political manipulation and plague death. Is this a driving reason the film was remastered?

The issue, or perhaps the attraction, is the rough and abstract black and white cinematography that add absurdity and mysticism to the plot. Maddin as a director could be said fixated on silent film as that is what “Tales from the Gimli Hospital” essentially is. A homage to or satire of silent film?  Perhaps none of this but simply an attempt to create a silent film some 70 years after the fact?

While the plot and storyline can be grasped the technique is fascinatingly obscure and frustrating.  This Canadian production with Icelandic dialogue thrown in now and then highlights the Icelandic immigration to Manitoba.

The film alters between dream, nightmare and symbolism.

The film recently showed at the Toronto International Film Festival. If it truly is a midnight cult classic (do such films still show at midnight?) it would make a great bill with “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

RKS Film Rating 81/100.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food ,drink, travel, film, and lifestyle issues. He also has published serialized novels "Life at Megacorp", "Virus # 26, "Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog" and "The Penniless Pensioner" Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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