CBC Digital Archives

Inducing goosebumps by Guy Maddin

Guy Maddin may be one of Canada's best-known unknown filmmakers. From his early, improbable success with "Tales From the Gimli Hospital," the director has relied on near-extinct film techniques to convey both a heavy dose of melodrama and a sly sense of humour. Maddin now works with international stars, but his humble origins are with the Winnipeg Film Group — a filmmakers' co-op that, over 30 years, has brought global acclaim to many Manitoba moviemakers.

media clip
Of all the methods of expression, why did Guy Maddin choose film as his medium? Goosebumps. As a young man, the director yearned to create the same feelings he got from reading books. But he knew he could never be a great writer. "Maybe filmmaking's my chance to produce those goosebumps," he thought. He loved sound, too: "Layers of sound are like warm felt blankets that tuck me in at night," he tells CBC Radio's Prime Time
• After Tales From the Gimli Hospital Maddin made Archangel in 1990. It's a story of love and amnesia in a Russian city immediately after the First World War.
Archangel is a "part-talkie" — Maddin's homage to a brief period in film history when sound was first being grafted onto silent films.
• The movie was the first of Maddin's to have a crew, a budget ($1.1 million), a schedule and a producer.

Careful, released in 1992, was Maddin's next movie. It was his take on a genre popular in 1930s Germany — the mountain film. It's set in the avalanche-prone alpine village of Tolzbad, a place where incestuous desires lurk under a layer of silence enforced by the risk of disaster.
• Because Manitoba lacks mountains, the film was shot on an alpine set constructed inside a grain elevator.

Careful, made in 1992, was Maddin's last feature to be made with the Winnipeg Film Group, and his first in colour. "I was ordered [by the producers] to do the movie in colour," Maddin would recall later. "But I'm glad…it would have been uninteresting in black and white."
• For the colour, Maddin and his producer, Greg Klymkiw, recreated a process called two-step Technicolor. "In any one scene, there are no more than two colours," Klymkiw told the Globe and Mail in August 1991.

• Hollywood director Martin Scorsese — a fan of Maddin's — was scheduled to act in a small role in Careful, but had to back out. Maddin then negotiated with hockey star Bobby Hull, but he too dropped out. Maddin eventually hired Australian director Paul Cox to act in the role.
• After opening to raves ("Beautiful and inventive," "dazzlingly funny") at the New York Film Festival in the fall of 1992, Careful opened on screens in Toronto. Attendance was abysmal and the movie closed after just one week.

• "The only real themes that matter to me are how humans love each other or hate each other or are envious of each other. All the timeless stuff. But I knew that people like to toss red herrings of their own into the story, and that sooner or later people would see the caution advised in Careful as some sort of portrait of Canada. But there is no allegory; I don't want an allegory." — Guy Maddin in Kino Delerium: The Films of Guy Maddin
Medium: Radio
Program: Prime Time
Broadcast Date: Sept. 24, 1992
Guest(s): Guy Maddin
Host: Geoff Pevere
Duration: 10:28
Film/photo credit: The Canada Council, The Canada Manitoba Cultural Industries Development Office, The Greg and Tracy Film Ministry, The Manitoba Arts Council, Téléfilm Canada

Last updated: March 23, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

1998: Michel Trudeau lost in B.C. avalanche

The son of a former prime minister becomes the country's best-known avalanche victim.


The side of a mountain suddenly collapses, transforming a pristine white blanket into a raging...