One Hundred Fifty-Four

Maddin on loop is not for the faint of heart

Hauntings I is creepy and original

by Aaron Snider (Culture Reporter)

Hauntings I
Directed by Guy Maddin

60 minutes
Plays at PLATFORM centre for photographic + digital arts until Oct. 2
Artist talk with Guy Maddin: Saturday, Oct. 1, 3 p.m.

4 out of 5 stars

Anyone who has ever seen anything by local film hero Guy Maddin knows two things. First, his work leans strongly toward the creepy. Second, it could never be confused with anyone else’s work. Maddin’s latest project is no exception.

Hauntings I is playing at PLATFORM centre for photographic + digital arts on the first floor of the ArtSpace building on Bannatyne. It had its debut asHauntings I & II in Toronto, where it was commissioned for the opening of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Bell Lightbox in 2010.

Hauntings I is not just a collection of short silent films, it’s an art exhibit that occupies a space.

There are several projectors pointing in different directions that project images onto, and through, different surfaces. The different projectors show the same loop of film but are staggered, giving the impression of complete chaos to those just entering the gallery.

There isn’t technically a correct screen to watch, but there is only one that fits with the spooky and otherwise disembodied soundtrack. It is once you’ve found your way to this screen that the show really begins.

Or rather, you begin to watch the show, picking up partway through a fragmented narrative.

The looped short films come so quickly that it’s sometimes difficult to be sure when one has ended and another begun. Maddin’s signature text – flashing titles and short phrases or single words – are always curious, as they could belong to the characters or to some mysterious narrator.

Some of the films incorporate Maddin’s quick and repetitive editing techniques while others layer long shots for a smooth and even glimmering effect. Combined with the musical accompaniment, which varies from soft strings to powerful horns to light techno – and electro-influenced songs, the effect is powerfully hypnotic.

The characters range from fanciful to terrifying and really do haunt the films, as well as the entire exhibit.

From sleepy, camera-headed Kino to the drowned wife who tries to seduce her widower husband from the afterlife with a delicious pie that she sends to shore, Maddin’s exhibit really depends on his ability to place so much information within the characters.

The potential themes to discuss in this piece are numerous and widely varied. WhileHauntings I is an apt title for the collection, there are so many other ideas to latch on to, including sexuality, substance abuse and sobriety, as well as magic, music and institutionalization. The whole experience is accompanied by a sense that there is simply too much to take in.

Maddin will give an artist talk on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. at the close of the exhibit. There is also a closing party later that night at 11 p.m.

The exhibit is produced in conjunction with the WNDX, Winnipeg’s Festival of Film and Video Art. The PLATFORM centre is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. Admission is free and donations are accepted.

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