Brand Upon the Brain!

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  • NR
  • 2006
  • 1 hr 39 min
  • 7.3  (3,667)
  • 79

Brand Upon the Brain! is a 2006 experimental film directed by Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin. The film is a surreal and dreamlike narrative that blends elements of horror, melodrama, and classic cinema. The film stars Gretchen Krich, Sullivan Brown, and Maya Lawson in the lead roles. The film follows the story of Guy Maddin, a successful filmmaker who returns to his childhood home on an isolated island to refurbish the lighthouse that his parents used to operate. Maddin experiences a flood of memories and visions of his childhood while he works on the lighthouse. The story is narrated by Isabella Rosellini, who speaks in a breathless and evocative voice that gives the story an otherworldly quality.

The film is a visual feast that is crafted to look like a vintage silent film from the 1920s. The movie is shot in black and white, and it features a lot of special effects, including superimposition, split screens, and rapid editing. The film is almost entirely silent, with sparse dialogue and sound effects.

The story begins with Guy Maddin's arrival on the island, where he is greeted by a group of teenage volunteers who assist him in the refurbishing of the lighthouse. Maddin soon discovers that the island is shrouded in a mysterious fog that seems to emanate from a nearby orphanage run by his mother. Maddin has memories of the orphanage, where his mother's experimental brain surgery is conducted on the children, and he remembers how he and his sister Sis used to sneak into the orphanage at night to spy on the procedures.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about Guy Maddin's childhood and his unique family dynamics. Guy's father is portrayed as a mercurial tyrant who used to discipline his children with a paddle made from the skin of a dead whale. Guy's mother, on the other hand, is depicted as a mad scientist, who experimented with brain surgery and mind control techniques on the children in her care.

The film's surreal and dreamlike quality is enhanced by the use of multiple narrators, flashbacks, and unreliable memories. The film features a lot of bizarre imagery, including a woman on a horse who seems to be leading a charge of orphaned children, a mysterious woman named Wendy Hale, who seduces Guy while posing as his sister Sis, and a demon who emerges from the sea to terrorize the island.

The film's title, Brand Upon the Brain!, refers to a strange ritual that Guy and his sister Sis are forced to undergo as children. Their mother brands the word "invincible" onto their scalps, in what she claims is an effort to make them immune to fear and pain. The branding leaves visible scars that are an enduring reminder of the violent and unsettling upbringing that Guy and Sis endured.

Despite the dark subject matter, the film has a playfulness and exuberance that makes it a joyful and exhilarating experience. The film's use of silent film techniques adds to the whimsical quality of the story, and the film's visual effects are both impressive and captivating.

In conclusion, Brand Upon the Brain! is an innovative and daring film that pushes the boundaries of what cinema can achieve. The film's blend of horror, melodrama, and classic cinema creates a unique and unforgettable movie experience. The film's surreal and dreamlike quality, combined with its stunning visuals and innovative storytelling techniques, make it a must-see movie for any fan of experimental cinema.

Brand Upon the Brain!
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 39 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.3  (3,667)
  • Metascore