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Canada 1992
produced by
Greg Klymkiw, Tracy Traeger, Andre Bennett (executive) for Greg & Tracy Film Ministry
directed by Guy Maddin
starring Kyle McCulloch, Gosia Dobrowolska, Sarah Neville, Paul Cox, Brend Neale, Victor Cowie, Michael O'Sullivan, Katya Gardner, Vince Rimmer, Jackie Burroughs, Rose McMillan, Leith Clark, Glen Hubich, Brendan Carruthers, George Toles, Greg Klymkiw, Kelli Shinfield
written by Guy Maddin, George Toles, music by John McCulloch, art direction by Jeff Solylo

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Tolzbad, somewhere high up in the Alps: The village is so threatened by avalanches that nobody dares to utter a loud word to not set one off. Likewise, children are tied up and gagged and farm animals and pets have their vocal chords removed - In other words, everybody has to be extremely careful. Having to watch out all the time and not being able to let out one's emotions though leads to the simple fact that everyone has to bottle up his or her feelings.

This is the backdrop for Johann (Brent Neale), student of the local butler school, to fall in love with Klara (Sarah Neville) - much to the dismay of his younger brother Grigorss (Kyle McCulloch). Also, the blind ghost of his dead father (Michael O'Sullivan) appears to his other catatonic brother Franz (Vince Rimmer), whom the family keeps locked away in the attic and warns of disaster - but Franz of course has no way to express himself ...

Eventually, Johann, who should be lovesick for his bride but has way too pure feelings towards her, has incestuous thoughts about his mother (Gosia Dobrowolska), and from here it's not long before he drugs and rapes her. Upon fully comprehending what he has done though, he burns his mouth, cuts off his fingers and leaps off some cliff to his death.

With his brother gone, Grigorss tries to score with Klara, but she thinks working in the local mines will be better comfort for her, and apart from this, she has incestuous feelings towards her father - but dad always prefers her sister Sigleinde (Katya Gardner) to her - which drives her mad with jealousy.

Eventually, Grigorss finishes butler school top of his class, and is accepted as new butler in the services of count Knotkers (Paul Cox) - who eventually confesses to Grigorss that he is in love with his mother whom he knew when they both were younger. Now, after his own mother has died, he tries to rekindle that romance - much to the dismay of Grigorss, who sees the honour of his father stained. When his mother tells him though that in return for his blessings she will finally accept Franz as her son, he is satisfied - until he meets Klara, who accuses him to be spineless and without honour if he lets his mother and the count stain the honour of his dad - and thus, Grigorss duels the count and kills him in the process. When she learns about this, his mother kicks him out of home and hangs herself right in front of Franz.

Klara shares her cave which only she knows about with Grigorss, tells him her father has raped her, and this way gets him to commit to killing her father - by firing a pistol to cause an avalanche. As a reward, she promises him to share the rest of her life with him in the cave. However, when Grigorss actually fires the pistol to cause the avalanche, Klara suddenly throws herself onto her father and kisses him like a lover, and it turns out she only wanted to die with him, like lovers, which is something Sigleinde will never be able to share with them.

Grigorss returns to Klara's cave alone, and an outlaw, and it is not long before an avalanche gets hold of him and kills him as well.

Now only Franz and Sigleinde are left alive, to look for the others, but while Franz, cured from his catatonia but left spreechless by the horrible experience of seeing his mother killing herself before his very eyes, won't be able to call her, Sigleinde's eyes are so filled with tears that she will not be able to see him.


In a way, this is Guy Maddin's version of the mountain films of the silent and early sound era that were particularly popular in German language countries - but while in the films of old, the mountains always have an idyllic flair to them, here they are pure menace, and while the old films tried for realism, this film's backdrops are made quite obviously made out of cardboard, and neglect any sort of realism in favour of their own style of expressionism.

In a word, Maddin has not set out to make just another mountain film, but a very personal picture that tells a big story using intentionally heavy-handed symbolism, absurd and surreal story devices, and his very own cinematic language that might be influenced by films from the silent and early sound era (like black and white and tinted scenes and a very scratchy soundtrack), but Maddin was never one to just make an hommage to whatever and instead creates a world with its own rules, even its own cinematic rules, full of visually striking, other-worldly images and very black humour. And in this world, even his often terribly wooden actors (probably an intentional style element) make perfect sense.

This all results in a film unlike anything you have seen before, a weird and far-out experience halfway between here and the most bizarre drugtrip you ever had, and an undeniable masterpiece.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD