The following questions revolve around Guy Maddin’s Hauntings 1, a multi-screen installation that collects lost and unfinished films of various late filmmakers and projects them in a gallery dressed to mimic a haunted house.
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1. Have your perceptions / expectations about the installation (Hauntings 1) changed from it’s debut to now?
The installation was finished a year ago, a site-specific thing for the Toronto film fest’s new megaplex facility. The building was brand spanking new so I offered to haunt it with the spirits of lost films, my own adaptations projected as if in a seance. Former Toban editors Evan Johnson, Caelum Vatnsdal and I decided to research the plots of 11 movies that once defined the zeitgeists of their eras but are now, for various reasons, lost, never to be seen again, except in our own filmic seances. Now they’re to be projected in Winnipeg’s Artspace building, which is over a century old and already haunted with gobs of creepy history. It’ll be ghost versus ghost in that building this September — now this I gotta see!
2. Do you feel a sense of sadness or longing for these lost films? If so, it is something that is intrinsic to the films themselves?
You’re onto something with that question. You know, in France film screenings are simply called seances. There has always been a sense of the haunted with film. We are always looking at people as they once were but no longer are, doing things they no longer can do exactly that way, a past locked forever in its time, whether its just seconds or decades ago.
3. You’ve described film as “a haunted medium.” Does this thought process influence the way you approach your own films?
I think it does, though I hadn’t realized it until I started on this project. Certainly all the other art forms can be haunted as well — even mime, I guess! — but film is what produces the most ectoplasmic sweat on my brow. Now it seems I’m not even interested in a film unless it’s somehow about a haunting, and by that I mean about ghosts, and by ghosts I mean memories, for what are ghosts but memories, yours or those of someone else, rattling their chains around in your head?
4. How did you come to select the chosen films? Is it significant that so many of the actors, directors, film crew, etc. involved are deceased?
We chose the films the way Benetton chooses models. Evan and I wanted a variety of directors represented. We made up a seance guest list the way a good host invites just the right people to a dinner party — we had room this time for a nice assortment of men & women, North American, European & Asian filmmakers, both canonical and not-so-canonical. When one beholds the eleven visually clamouring projections at this dinner party, he can’t help but notice that the conversation among them, though completely mute, is absolutely sparkling!