Tales from the Gimli Hospital Reframed

A cult sensation when it was released in 1988, Tales from the Gimli Hospital tells the dreamlike, elliptical story of the jealousy and madness instilled in two men sharing a hospital room in a remote Canadian village. This surreal film first propelled Guy Maddin to international prominence, became an unprecedented success on the midnight movie circuit, and is now being reinvented in an entirely different way by this performance.
For Tales From the Gimli Hospital: Reframed, Maddin has re-edited the original version of Gimli, adding more impressionistic stories-within-stories, including parts of his short film Hospital Fragments (2000). The breathtaking new score similarly takes the film in a very different direction, with layers upon layers of music drawn from different sources, reflecting the “nested doll” structure of the film, and an ethereal tone that draws out the darkest and most haunting elements of Gimli’s storyline.
This performance brings the Icelandic subtext of the original film front and center by bringing together a group of Icelandic musicians to write and perform the stunningly gorgeous new score, frequently singing and talking in Icelandic as part of it. Gimli, the setting of the film, is a Canadian village that was founded by Icelanders in the 1870s, when they fled their own country because of a volcano eruption (some of Maddin’s relatives were part of this initial group of settlers). The storyline of the film is very loosely inspired by some of the Icelandic sagas, and many of the bizarre customs seen in the film—like using oil squeezed from fish as hair gel, or “glima wrestling” (macho fighting in which two men smack each others’ buttocks)–are Maddin’s own hilariously idiosyncratic takes on specific Icelandic traditions.
This new score was written collaboratively by Canadian composer Matthew Patton, Icelandic musicians Kristin Anna Valtysdottir, Gyda Valtysdottir (also formerly of múm), Borgar Magnason, and Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir (of amiina), and three members of the Seattle-based Aono Jikken Ensemble (Willliam Satake Blauvelt, Dean Moore, and Naho Shioya). The Icelandic musicians play string instruments and sing, while Aono Jikken Ensemble performs live “Foley” sound effects (through the frequently ingenious use of unexpected props on stage, all in full view of the audience), percussion, and ambient sound. On top of this all, Kristin Anna Valtysdottir performs her narration—playing the parts of both of the lead male characters in the film in her enchanting, elfin voice, in addition to singing and playing guitar. Acclaimed audio engineer Paul Corley will also create live sound design for the performance that adds even more layers of crackly, textured distortion and spaciousness to the sound. Through all of these remarkable live elements, in Tales From the Gimli Hospital: Reframed
, Guy Maddin brings his original artwork to life in a sublime and unexpected new way.

Inspired by the aesthetics and melodramatic flourishes of silent cinema, Central European literature and the desolation of his native Winnipeg, Guy Maddin has fashioned a career like no other. Maddin was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba: the coldest and most central city in North America. His filmic output to date—nine feature-length projects and innumerable shorts—is a remarkable canon of fantasia. His first feature, Tales from the Gimli Hospital, appeared in 1988, and became a midnight-movie classic. His second, Archangel, won the U.S. National Film Critics Award for best experimental film. Since then he has won many other awards – including the Telluride Silver Medal for life achievement in 1995, the San Francisco International Film Festival’s prestigious Persistence of Vision award in 2006, and many more – and created dozens of beguiling films in his unique personal style. These include such celebrated feature works as The Saddest Music in the World (2003); Brand upon the Brain! (2006); and My Winnipeg (2007). Maddin is also a writer and teacher, and occupies the position of Distinguished Filmmaker in Residence at the University of Manitoba.

About Guy Maddin