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Having been released from prison, Peter
Glahn (Nigel Whitmey, but voiced by Ross McMillan) returns to his home on the
dreamy island of Mandragora, where his sister Amelia (Shelley Duvall) owns an
ostrich farm and employs a foul tempered eunuch named Cain (Frank Gorshin).
There, Peter falls in love with Juliana Kossel (Pascale Bussières), the
lover of Issac Solti (R.H. Thomson), a vain, heartless hypnotist who also lives
on the island and with whom Amelia is infatuated. Within a short time of
Peter's arrival at his home, he and the other inhabitants of Mandragora,
including a young widow named Zephyr Eccles (Alice Krige), have become
embroiled in a complex web of relationships which eventually brings violence
and conflict to the island.
AnalysisAlthough Maddin has stated that the color palate he chose for the
film was inspired by the paintings of Gustave Moreau, the whole of the movie
actually resembles, in both its colors and its style, the paintings of Maxfield
Parrish. I will concede that I am not a great admirer of that artist's work,
but, be that as it may, his visual style, even if unintended, works extremely
well in the film and infuses Twilight of the Ice Nymphs with a
wonderful, dreamlike, and otherworldly feel. The whole of the movie is set
below pink, blue, magenta, and golden skies, among luxuriant and obviously
artificial forests filled with clouds of floating down, upon and beside bays of
scintillating waters, around Amelia's rustic farm, and in Issac's mansion,
which is cluttered with all the paraphernalia of a wizard's workroom. All these
places, lavish and charming as they are, are made even more appealing by the
various soft but luminous colors and diaphanous hazes with which Maddin bathes
them. Even though there are times when the costume or set designs are not
entirely inspired, or are even distracting, the movie is, far more often than
not, a real joy simply to look at.
Twilight of the Ice Nymphs is a consistently lovely film filled with
such sexually charged, artificial melodrama that it is a wondrous delight to
Fortunately, Maddin has not merely created a visually
attractive film. The story he tells is as quirky and melodramatic as are those
he relates in most of his other movies, and it is just as inventive and
engaging as are those other narratives. From its florid and romantic beginning
until its gratuitously tragic conclusion, the feverish, frequently lurid tale
of jealousy, overwhelming passion, murderous rage, and betrayal told in
Twilight of the Ice Nymphs is absolutely and deliciously enthralling.
Maddin's characters are consistently strange, as are many of the lines they
speak, and give the viewer the opportunity to appreciate them for their
eccentricities. Maddin's fictional world is, in fact, so infused with such a
delightful weirdness, such a disorienting, overwrought absurdity, that its
artificiality and peculiarity give it a marvelous flavor that is a real
pleasure to savor.
With both this narrative and the intoxicating images he has
crafted, Maddin draws the viewer into a strange, liminal world, in which
passions, obsessions, and sinister secrets are given manifest forms, and,
thereby, allows the viewer the opportunity to feel all the movie's characters'
emotions with a genuine intensity. Instead of merely trying to trick the viewer
into believing he is voyeuristically spying on some real persons, by creating a
lovely artificial world inhabited by nearly mythic individuals, who speak their
lines in a perfectly articulated, almost liturgical manner, and whose actions
are given a wild intensity never encountered in the ordinary world, Maddin
engages the viewer directly with the events of the film so that he experiences
the emotions it arouses with a potent immediacy. The effect the director
achieves is truly and profoundly affecting.
While I cannot say that Twilight of the Ice Nymphs is a
great film, it does often come very close, and it is certainly a pleasure to
Review by Keith Allen
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