Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 90 min
Ordnance Motion Pictures
In the remote northern village of Archangelin pre-revolutionary Russia, a one-legged, love-struck Canadian soldier, Lt. John Boles (Kyle McCulloch), endures a series of battles between White Russians, Bolsheviks and Kaiser Wilhelm’s Huns in a tireless search for his beloved Iris – who, unbeknownst to Boles, is already dead.
In Archangel, Boles meets the beautiful Veronkha (Kathy Marykuca), whom he initially mistakes for Iris. Even though Veronkha is married to Philbin (Ari Cohen) – whose mind is so devastated by mustard gas that he keeps forgetting he is Veronkha’s husband – she eventually marries Boles. She has fallen in love with Boles, or perhaps has simply mistaken him for Philbin. Meanwhile, Boles’s landlady, Danchuk (Sarah Neville), becomes smitten with him and rejects her repulsive husband, Jannings (Michael Gottli). Boles is also attracted to Danchuk, but loves Veronkha and continues to long for Iris — who, of course, is still dead.
A wistful, luminous conflation of absurdity, high romance and heroic delusion, Guy Maddin’s second feature expands upon the perverse, labyrinthine approach to plot and the peculiar visual sense that made his debut feature, Tales from the Gimli Hospital, one of Canada’s biggest cult hits of all time. Shot in sumptuous black and white worthy of the work of Josef von Sternberg, Archangel reaffirmed Maddin’s fondness for complex, melodramatic narratives that appropriate the style and signifiers of silent films. Filled with slices of the surreal and the cruel, the film marked a progression from Tales fromtheGimli Hospital, witnessed in Maddin’s command of the material, and offered further evidence that his is one of the most unique visions in contemporary world cinema.