Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Twilight of the Ice Nymphs and The Heart of the World

If Archangel was kind of out there for film in general, Twilight of the Ice Nymphs is rather out there even for Maddin. The other feature length film of his in the Guy Maddin collection, it has him tossing aside all of his normal visual language in favor of a completely new bag of tricks.

It’s the only one of his films I’ve seen that’s in color, for one, and instead of using all his normal visual tricks to give it the feel of an old silent film, he instead chooses to make it rather hazy and dreamlike. The film is fuzzy around the edges; there’s a golden glow surrounding everything for most of the film, keeping everything seeming not quite real, but more like a nostalgic memory of a time gone by that never actually quite existed. It works well with the characters themselves, given that they’re playing mythological people that live inside of trees and who dress like they’re in some Renaissance era play (or perhaps the Russian ballet would be more apropos, given how they occasionally move to music).

I shan’t reveal what comes at the end, except to say that when twilight finally comes, and the golden haze is exchanged for the more sinister purple glow of night, the film loses none of its visual power. And frankly, even if it weren’t quite up to par, it’s the only thing I’ve seen with Shelley Duvall in it since 1987’s Roxanne. She could use the extra bit of change from the royalties here, don’t you think?

As you may have gleaned from the title, this review’s going to be a bit of a two-fer, as, in addition to Archangel and Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, there’s also the delightful six minute short The Heart of the World in this collection. It was made for the 2000 Toronto Film Festival and had a number of attending critics claiming it was the best film they saw there, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a frantically paced silent science fiction romance, plowing along so swiftly that I gave up even the pretense of taking notes for it after about the half-minute mark. It’s so visually dazzling and funny that, even though it’s a mere six minutes long, it stands as the single greatest thing in this collection, and is one of the most entertaining short films I’ve ever watched. This collection is worth checking out just for it.

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