By Tara Judah
My first encounter with The Forbidden Room was at the Berlinale. We met again at LFF (London Film Festival). In London it played at the BFI IMAX, and it was different. Not only because it was so much bigger, but because Maddin had made it shorter, too.
Guy Maddin: I’ve always been regretful after my movies that they’ve always been too long, that they’ve overstayed their welcome too much. But this one, I knew, by its very nature, that it needed to be too much. It was just a matter of getting the right amount of too much. And I felt there was too too much at the Berlin cut.
After journeying through – I don’t think it’s right to say that I’ve ‘seen’, ‘viewed’ or even ‘experienced’ The Forbidden Room – I had the great pleasure of meeting Maddin, a man whose brain I consider responsible for some of the many delusions and hopes in my own. To say that I was nervous would be a gross understatement. As I waited by the bar at BFI Southbank I thought I might throw up. Glory be to the bile in my stomach that I did not.
I asked him questions, and he kindly answered. But much of what we talked about is already available in other interviews across the vast and ragged terrain of this here Internet. So, instead of typing up questions and answers, I’m going to put here what I consider to be the ‘best bits’ of our conversation. Like the new cut of The Forbidden Room, it’s shorter, and hopefully more intriguing, too.
The framing device, How to Take a Bath, was a talkie from 1987, and a short.
There’s seventeen different fragments of lost and unrealised films in there.
You start by sticking your toe in…
I have to say, there’s one thing I’m proud of. And I can be proud of it because I didn’t do it. Evan did it. I really like how yellow he made the foot that’s sticking its big toe in the bath early on. It’s sickening. He actually was able to digitally add dead skin, like, with a kind of a nicotine hue, to this foot, and it’s just so nauseating, and I know viewers were already uncertain how much of this mess up there is intentional and how much of it is just maybe the way feet are in Winnipeg, and, um, and it just gets everyone off to a nice queasy uncertainty.
You know, when you make movies you’re actually – whether you want to or not – you’re performing therapy on yourself, too. And you do cure yourself of an obsession by making a movie.
I would take stuff and then abuse it. And we’re all abused. I don’t know, its … all movie viewers are abused. Not just by the movies they’re watching, but you bring your own crap into the theatre with yourself and you’re all PTSD’d up about something; self-pity, worth, and then, you know, why not just abuse the very process by which you make these things? You could maybe sync up abuse histories. Or at least find yourself in the image that was abused… I don’t know.
Well, now you have a recording of my sneeze. It’s like DNA; it’s a unique sneeze. No two sneezes are alike.
It’s just my diary. I haven’t read it. I kept a diary for my daughter. I thought – I’d read the journals of John Cheever, and I thought, “This is the way to go. You leave this for your children. You are completely about yourself, as honest as you can be with yourself, and then your daughter will know you”. You know, she’ll know that you masturbated into the snow once or something. Like, I don’t know if she needs to, but she does now! And, uh, I don’t know, it just seems like it’s part of me and, I don’t know, it’s not a big deal anyway, so um… but I haven’t read it. I just can tell who has read it by which people are no longer speaking to me.
I make them all the time and they’re always the same thing, you know; lose weight, get exercise, read more, write more, be nicer to people…. probably should have added, ‘don’t publish diaries’ to the Gatsby List.
Start with the genitals and move outward in ever widening circles.
I like to consider myself a nice guy, but I can’t anymore, I’m an asshole.
Putrefying fruit? It makes me feel guilty. There’s kind of a sperm shame.
Schpermshame – or however you’re supposed to say it in German. Um, putrefying fruit fills me with a similar guilt. It’s not as tapioca like, or hair gel like, but there is something – just throw it out already! Or don’t waste food, or, get rid of those fruit flies! I’ve still got a personal fruit fly. You know, the way someone – you know, other people – have a God, that’s watching over them at all times? I’ve just got a fruit fly following me around wherever I go. It followed me onto the airplane here, from Boston.
Yeah, it went through – it just sailed through customs while I had to wait an hour. And the things are only supposed to live a day, but this thing has been following me around for a few years now and it’s because I let the fruit putrefy when I was in my twenties, when I was first living on my own and, um, you know, I threw out food that I paid good money for but I didn’t throw out fruit soon enough and, I don’t know.
Unitards are just sexy.
Galen did the music design too and he taught me how to download this little thing called Audacity. And so, whenever I was in work avoidance mode, instead of vacuuming my apartment, I would make little sound scapes.
I’ve always been inspired by Luis Bunuel’s L’Age Dor…I’m always able to find myself in there.
It feels enormous doesn’t it? It fills like bigger than Cleopatra somehow – like, in my head, anyway. And it’s taken up a longer, bigger chunk of my life. And it’s almost killed me – like it killed Liz Taylor, almost.
I don’t know. I feel like I’ve given away the biggest diamond in the world during the whole thing.
I’m kind of weary as a result. But mostly because I had too much wine with the Brothers Quay at lunch.
I am hilariously jetlagged.
Had a dinner where I drank a lot of margaritas. I could feel scurvy coming on, or something. I haven’t been eating properly over the last month while I’ve been teaching in Boston, and so I needed the margaritas.
It’s all just spinning around, but I recognise people on the same trajectory all the time. And the self-pity doesn’t really have much market value when everyone is out out pitying themselves.