Guy Maddin’s Seances is a Different Movie Every Time You Watch It

Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin’s specialty are avant-garde films that use the techniques of silent cinema to disorient the viewer. He’s good at it. I was first introduced to his work in Tales of the Gimli Hospital, fine viewing for a dark night in an isolated location. His work is never “easy,” and requires patience and interest. Maddin’s latest project is something unique in the history of cinema, and only made possible by access to it on the Internet. Maddin introduces Seances:

“Almost every director working in the first half‐century of film history has lost at least one film to the quirks of fate. These lost works remind me of ghosts. It’s easy to equate these films long gone missing, which exist forensically only in the form of a few production stills and some old Variety reviews, as restless spirits that haunt us. The landscape of cinema history is thronged with their likes, tormenting us with their promise of a return, of their warm refulgent brilliance restored to us, as in a miracle. There will never be the kind of closure the discovery of a dead body can bring to a family. These films will never be declared dead with any certainty, they will continue to haunt us with the possibility of their return. These lost film titles are the ‘hauntings’ we hope to invoke with Seances.”

Seances, co-created with Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, is experimental cinema for those who like drifting into a madhouse reverie, a strange almost hellishly-inscrutable dream from which there is no waking. It’s an endless hall of mirrors. No escape because there’s no exit.

Guy Maddin Shoot Seances

Technically, Seances is web-based avant-garde cinema art consisting of a large number of short silent films set to music, which are intermixed at random in bits and pieces by computer algorithms. Maddin shot the films, sometimes one each day, at the Phi Centre in Montreal and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, with the participation of actors such as Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin, and genre favorite Udo Keir, among many others.


What’s most fascinating to me about the project is that when you visit the SEANCES website, it opens and fills your computer monitor. An odd title appears center screen, undulating, and then suddenly it changes to a different title. Sometimes the new title is completely different, other times only a few words change. When you click and hold down your cursor it’s as if a roulette wheel is spinning—whatever film is generated is usually a different length, with a title selected apparently at random, with scenes plucked willy-nilly and shown in an order that changes with every viewing.

The movie you watch will never be seen by anyone else, nor will it exist after you are finished viewing it. I’ve sneakily captured two of these below.

When you’re ready for the full experience (whatever it may be) click here.

You can also watch seven of the separate films which comprise Seances on Vimeo.

Parts of Seances were eventually formed into a new somewhat less hallucinatory feature film, The Forbidden Room, which can be viewed here. A behind-the-scenes video about the making of The Forbidden Room is fun.

The real focus of the project doesn't lie in a conventional feature like The Forbidden Room, but in the unexpected and unrelenting weirdness unleashed by the computer algorithms that create movies which exist for only the few minutes you watch them on the Seances website.

Read more about Seances and Guy Maddin’s Work in The Guardian

Guy Maddin’s Website

Via: Shock Till You Drop.

Notable Replies

  1. The movie you watch will never be seen by anyone else, nor will it exist after you are finished viewing it. I’ve sneakily captured two of these below.

    Do these two sentences contradict each other?

  2. Lynn Cinnamon has a good summary of what happened.

    Back a few years I was friends with them on twitter, they came to TCAF, and you could tell they did not like the crowds or the whole "meet the author/buy directly from the author" shilling aspect of the event. But you'd never have thought it would have gone from dislike to burning books.

  3. It's sad how much of that article is:

    <image removed in accordance with DMCA claim by John Campbell>

    In fact, the whole story is sad.

  4. Uthor says:

    The article misses that there were posts about coming out as trans and being put down by roommates with no where to go. Last I heard, they were going to try and reconnect with family to see if they would be accepted or if the family would need to be cut out of their life forever.

    A lot of comics people who knew them were expressing serious concern about their mental health. I sometimes wonder what happened to them and hope they found some help.

    The worst part was the press picking up the book burning story and ignoring all the other stuff going on at the time.

    (I don't know what their preferred pronouns are, so I'm sticking with they/them/etc.)

    I was lucky to get the book (and some extra stuff) in the end, but I never felt anything but concern during that time unlike a lot of other "fans".

  5. From the article:

    She (John came out as transgender last year) had published a book of her first 200 comics rather successfully in 2009.

    But yeah, I do hope they got the help and support they needed. I know a lot of comics people in Toronto and they were helpless watching this happen in real time and not being able to help at all. They burned a lot of bridges unfortunately... I hope they're well wherever they are now. :confused:

    Apologies to the mods for going so far off topic.

    On that note, as a Canadian, I frakking hate Guy Madden films. @milliefink - My Winnipeg is terrible and i worry that we can no longer be friends!

Continue the discussion

9 more replies