Brand Upon the Brain!

Critics Consensus

A bizarre, compelling spectacle that invests its absurd plot with heartfelt sincerety, Brand Upon the Brain! is a unique cinematic experience.



Reviews Counted: 57

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,957


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Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 4/5

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Movie Info

Canadian director Guy Maddin's "Brand Upon the Brain" is a silent film that reveals the shocking truth about his hellish childhood on a remote island under the watchful eye of a crazed mother hellbent on restoring her youth and a diabolically distant scientist-father, proprietors of a mom-and-pop orphanage that surreptitiously operate within the dank confines of the family lighthouse. Watch! as the sex instinct grabs hold of young Maddin and his sister! Thrill! as the Mysteries of the Light House are divined by teen detectives! Reel! at the headstrong invention and heart-stopping rhythms of the elder Maddin's heroic silent moviemaking!! Advance tickets available online at


News & Interviews for Brand Upon the Brain!

Critic Reviews for Brand Upon the Brain!

All Critics (57) | Top Critics (18)

The director's form of genial cinematic dementia is guaranteed not to be to all tastes at all times, but those who are looking for something strange and different will feel right at home.

Oct 17, 2014 | Full Review…

For me it captures Maddin at his loopiest and most inspired.

Jul 27, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Narrated by Isabella Rossellini and enhanced by Jason Staczek's superb score, this is characteristically intense and, unlike most of Maddin's silent-movie models, frenetically edited.

Jul 13, 2007 | Full Review…

No matter how much the director disguises the tale in flickery symbolism, the emotions feel painful and personal.

Jun 29, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Brand Upon the Brain! is like no other movie you're likely to see this year -- or any other year. It won't be to everyone's taste. But for those who like their cinema weird, it doesn't get any weirder or more oddly fascinating than this.

Jun 15, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

... a feverishly imaginative Freudian vampire film ...

Jun 15, 2007 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Brand Upon the Brain!

I really admired the style, spirit, and atmosphere of this film; it recreated the essence of silent films of the 20s brilliantly. But it kind of did feel like a chore for me to sit through at times. It felt a little repetitive and once again I was left feeling like I just would NEVER truly enjoy a Guy Maddin film (THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD still leaves me feeling uneasy just thinking about it, but I feel like I need to give it another shot). I did admire it's craftsmanship though, and can easily acknowledge that many would really like this film. Recommended to the more adventurous of viewers.

Michael S
Michael S

Super Reviewer


In "Brand upon the Brain!" Guy Maddin(Erik Steffen Maahs), the house painter, not the experimental film director, returns to the remote lighthouse where his parents(Clayton Corzatte & Suzanne Corzatte) raised him and his sister(Maya Lawson), and ran a mom and pop orphanage. It was not a particularly happy time as Savage Tom(Andrew Loviska) bullied all the other children. Teen detective Wendy Hale(Katherine E. Scharhon) arrives at the island, thinking something even more sinister is afoot and disguises herself as her brother Chance. "Brand upon the Brain!" is a giddy brew that not only contains Guy Maddin's usual homage to silent movies but also references to "Twelfth Night" and steampunk. Nothing against Isabella Rossellini(love the Green Porno shorts, by the way), but the narration is unnecessary and the movie is substantially better without it. On a thematic level, Maddin warns about the danger about looking too intently back in time for answers and is certainly not nostalgic. For example, the mother wants to control all apsects of her children's lives, keeping them immature forever and of course away from sex.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Alive, in Victoria Falls (Zambia side today). Returning Stateside on Tuesday. Bummed about the Rockies getting their rumps handed to them in the World Series. Happy I'm alive to experience the bummer, after the Zambezi. That river kicked my arse. See ya folks soon, and with pics! By the way, any good movies out lately? Saw the majority of both Away From Her and The Hoax on the flights out here, but not in their entirety (bleeping Air Canada's crappy in-flight electronics can be blamed for that). Both were excellent until being snapped away like a ghost line from my transfixed eyes. Bah.

Neum Daddy
Neum Daddy

Super Reviewer

[size=3]Brand Upon the Brain! is a bore. (Yes, there is an exclamation point in the title.)[/size] [size=3][/size] [img][/img] [size=3][/size] [size=3]I certainly like that it's very radical, both in its narrative and its presentation. It's a silent film with live orchestral accompaniment, and the film was made recently. It's not a revival of a 100-year-old film.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]But I thought the film itself was just awful. I'd love to see a talented artist attempt the kind of project Guy Maddin has envisioned. Maddin himself is not up to the task.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]The fact that he succeeded in getting artists like Isabella Rosellini to work with him is puzzling in the extreme. She'[/size][size=3]s one of the live narrators in the NYC production. (The night I saw it, however, Joie Lee was the narrator -- Spike Lee's sister.)[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]The film is a bizarre Freudian psychodrama that plays like a twisted autobiography of the subconscious. A boy named Guy lives on a remote island with his parents and sister, and they run an orphanage. There are no other adults on the island save for his parents.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]His parents are psychos. The mother is the more fully developed character. She is a domineering, omnipotent, omniscient nutcase. She sits in a lighthouse and surveys everything on the island, controlling her two children through a kind of telepathy.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]To (over)[/size][size=3]emphasize her vampiric qualities, the film has her sucking "nectar" from the orph[/size][size=3]ans, which she gets by drilling holes in [/size][size=3]the kids' heads. Whenever she gets a fix of nectar, she becomes [/size][size=3]younger in appearance. But when she flies in[/size][size=3]to a rage, which usually occurs at times when [/size][size=3]her children get sexually aroused, she becomes old again.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]In addition to the cla[/size][size=3]ssic (hackneyed) Freudian drama of the overpowering mother, we get the classic[/size][size=3] (hackneyed) Freudian drama of the boy who has confusing c[/size][size=3]rushes on both b[/size][size=3]oys and girls.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]The film is saturated with bisexual arousal, which I suppose is Guy Maddin's version of polymorphous perversity. I found it tiresome, predictable and repetitious and devoid of all genuine arousal. Maddin is particularly fond of filming his male actors naked from both the front and the back. I haven't seen[/size][size=3] this many male buttocks and penises [/size][size=3]since the last time I saw porn.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]I certainly don't look down my nose at Freudian psychodrama or bisexuality.[/size][size=3] In fact I'm very interested in such themes. My problem is that Brand Upon the Brain! is such a banal, predictable version of it. I get the feeling that Maddin has been making the same films since the 1950s and hasn't [/size][size=3]grown in the slightest since the days of his youth.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]I'm happy that avant-garde projects like this are getting made in 2007 and publicly shown.[/size][size=3] I'm just sad that this one was so mediocre. It gives the avant-garde a bad name.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]One side note about the orchestral accompaniment: there is a male singer who d[/size][size=3]oes a couple of [/size][size=3]short arias in a soprano voice during the film. What's very, very strange is that the marketing material claims this man is a castrati. [/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]If you know anything about opera, you know that in Europe some boys used to be castrated so that they could keep their angelic voices into adulthood. The practice waned about 300 years ago, but Guy Maddin appears to want to revive it. I'm sure the man wasn't really a castrati. There's a new trend in opera for men to cultivate a soprano voice. I'm sure this man is one of those "counter-tenors," as they're known.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3]For this film team [/size][size=3]to claim that they have[/size][size=3] found a castrated man in 2007 is yet another example of how this[/size][size=3] is not much more than a [/size][size=3]circus parading as serious art. I feel like I was hoodwinked into spending $40 on this. Yes, the admission was $40.[/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3][/size] [size=3][/size]

William Dunmyer
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

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