This late in the game, I was left with only two Canadian films (at least I think so) to watch with my poutine. Rather then having potential food aversion issues by watching the final David Cronenberg film on the list, I opted for this very odd film by Guy Maddin. This is the first Maddin feature film that I have seen, having watched his short Heart of the World many years ago. Still wasn’t prepared for this weirdness.
Watching Archangel is like watching a movie from a parallel universe where cinema techniques haven’t moved much after 1928, but the rest of the world and technology has. The types of shots and effects used in much of this film are such throwbacks to the world of silent cinema, especially Russian ones, that it is really disarming that not only is there dialogue but it is also perfectly synched up.
When it started out, I was totally on board with the premise of this strange story set in Archangel, Russia during the time where Canada got involved in the civil war. There was a surreal humour to a lot of it that made me laugh out loud a few times. Then we got multiple overlapping amnesia romance storylines and I started to get a bit lost to the point where the weirdness made the film more hard to digest.
That aside, this is one of those incredibly different films that I am super glad to have seen. Aside from some of the dreamy sequences in David Lynch works, I don’t think I have ever seen cinematic sequences quite like this. Despite not being completely on board with this film, I would also be very interested to try other Guy Maddin works like My Winnipeg. There is something about seeing the works of someone this distinctive.