Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Brand Upon the Brain!": Horror, with homage to the silent film era

A particular bizarre film is Guy Maddin’s “Brand Upon the Brain!" (2007), from The Seattle Film Company and Vitagraph. It’s a little black-and-white film in twelve “chapters”, all as a (mostly) silent film, telling the story of what happens when Guy returns to a lonesome Canadian island to paint a lighthouse, and recalls the horrid memories of experiments carried out by his parents.

At one point in the middle of the film, the mother wants to age backward, in Benjamin Button fashion.

The film has some effects that recall those of David Lynch’s “Eraserhead”. The grainy black and white reminds one of "Blair Witch Project". The tense chamber music score is by Jason Staczek.

The DVD is offered by the Criterion Collection.

The DVD includes three shorts: "It's My Mother's Birthday Today"; "Footsteps"; "97 Percent True" (about the making of the feature). Maddin describes how he got the chance to make this film in 6 weeks; he decided on silent film and his autobiographical story after the fact as he had little time to write a script. The chamber orchestra (eleven pieces, including six strings, 2 horns, and a falsetto voice) plays "the saddest music in the world" (composed by Jason Staczek) and then he got interested in the idea of organs being illegally harvested from orphans. In some festival performances, the "orchestra" played live.

Picture: Woodcut by Robert Adsit (1981).

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