Canada’s Top Ten 2015: The Forbidden Room

This review was originally published as part of my coverage of TIFF15

Guy Maddin and co-director Evan Johnson embark on a surreal cinematic journey in The Forbidden Room. A series of interconnected narratives tells stories inspired by forgotten genres from cinema’s past. Over the course of this increasingly weird and surreal journey, a number of familiar faces show up, including Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Rampling, Udo Kier, and Guy Maddin regular Louis Negin.

Known for his somewhat unusual odes to classic cinema, such as The Saddest Music in the WorldMy Winnipeg, and Keyhole, Guy Maddin returns with what is probably his most incoherent and weird film yet. He is joined by first time director Evan Johnson, who previously worked as a camera operator on My WinnipegThe Forbidden Door takes many different narratives and film genres and scrambles them together, including a crew aboard a submarine, a woodsman trying to save a damsel in distress, and a thief who steals squids, which is a crime punishable by death.

It quickly becomes apparent that The Forbidden Room is more a film to experience, rather than to fully understand. The film reaches its peak fairly early on, during a musical sequence, featuring a song entitled “The Final Derriere,” performed by the band Sparks. Like the accordion scene in Holy Motors, this is a sequence where the The Forbidden Room really becomes quite enjoyable. Sadly, at just under two hours in length, The Forbidden Room is way too long for what it is and it quickly becomes apparent that the film is more interested in its stunt casting than a cohesive narrative. Altogether, The Forbidden Room ends up being a very weird, incoherent mess of cinematic non-sequiturs.

5 / 10 stars


  • Saturday, January 16, 6:00 PM – TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
  • Sunday, January 17, 3:30 PM – TIFF Bell Lightbox 4