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.



Total Count: 57


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,955
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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


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Critic Reviews for Brand Upon the Brain!

All Critics (57) | Top Critics (18)

Audience Reviews for Brand Upon the Brain!

  • Sep 02, 2014
    A visual experience that can be ultimately narrowed down to an experimental "silent" psychodrama, Guy Maddin has written and directed one of the most important films of the new millennium. Elements merged are, or are taken from: classic horror/sci-fi B-movies, Expressionism, Surrealism, silent cinema trademarks, experimentation, frenetic editing, usage of colors or tints and sounds to accentuate an idea or a memory, and a flawless piano score by Jason Staczek. Possible sources of influence are: Antoine Doinel's hardships of infancy and lack of caring parental figures in <i>The 400 Blows</i> (1959), Arthur Lipsett, Dimitri Kirsanoff, Fernand Léger, Hans Richter, and the editing of Jan Svankmajer. Result: A technically arresting recollection of memories with autobiographical tendencies disguised as a fantasy film with impossible elements. Replay value: Infinite. New images shall be discovered with each viewing, inciting the viewer even to pause the film in certain segments to catch subliminally perceived but consciously skipped images, or pay attention to the colored parts, including the flora of the island and Wendy's face. Cinematic importance: It revives the oldest visual tradition of cinema and the underrated importance of visual composition, film techniques, editing, music, theatrical acting and the power of alternative methods of storytelling. Most shocking factor: How come an experimental quasi-horror-SciFi silent hybrid tackle subjects like lesbianism, a reversed Oedipal complex, orphanship, cannibalism, voyeurism, sexual awakenings and obsession to physical youth while also being a very moving drama about the memories of a grown man in the present? Beats the fuck out of me. 97/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 08, 2011
    9.0/10 "Brand Upon the Brain", the most recent Guy Maddin feature to be labeled as a silent psychodrama, is an ambitious film that honestly does offer up something new for curious, adventurous movie-goers. It exists in a world of its own, is a true original, and engulfs itself in a mysterious, but intriguing sort of cinematic fog. This is what I'm talking about. Alas, I'll try as hard as I can - and I mean that - to summarize the experience of watching Maddin's film. Films can simply be films; they don't have to be moving stories of heroism, comedy, or whatever. "Brand Upon the Brain" is bizarre, and takes most of its influence from Silent Films (and as you can see, it is a Silent Film itself; making it a sort of clever "homage" to the era when these films were at their prime). This does not mean that the film lacks the qualities of movies we are used to; but even being accustomed to the rules of comedy, tragedy, adventure - all things we're familiar with by now - cannot prepare us for such an experience as this. But that's what I love about it. A character named after Guy Maddin (the director behind the film) is asked to paint his mother's lighthouse. Almost instantly, Guy recalls his ill-fated and unfortunately conflicted childhood, in which he lived, loved, and lost. But I suppose this is how life is supposed to be experienced; and Guy's outlook on it was not cynical in spite of the troubles that he faced, or rather, the troubles that faced him. He lived on an island, along with his sister and many other orphans, under the care and ever-so-watchful eye of his mother. Guy's father works as a secluded scientist shrouded in mystery; although a kid-detective, Wendy Hale, seems to have her eyes on him when it comes to exposing just what he does. Let's just say that Guy's father's business is often tormented and ugly. Guy's sister becomes a big central character a little ways into the film. After a game of spin-the-bottle, "Sis" develops feelings toward Wendy. She disguises herself as Chance, a fake brother of Guy, in order to successfully and happily be with the young teen detective. Mother is angered and sexually jealous through realizing this. Things get weird when family tension arises, but oh, don't let me spoil it for you. The film was originally screened with live-audio performances and narration by stars such as Crispin Glover and Isabella Rossellini. It was meant to be some sort of Rocky Horror-esque "event movie". It hasn't garnered such a cult quite yet, but if they bring back such special screenings, and I believe they should, then this might become an even bigger hit than it already is. This is a film that deserves to be seen if only for its intent; to be strange, weird, outlandish, and out-of-this-word odd. Perhaps the magic of "Brand Upon the Brain" is in its style, and only its style. Here is a movie that tells its delicate and compelling little narrative through images that move by so fast and abruptly that you'd think this was the work of a master music video director. However, it isn't; and Guy Maddin is much more accomplished. He is a filmmaker, an artist, trying to show the world something new, and the world he has depicted here; it's something new, for sure. You'll be wondering whether it's the best thing you've ever seen or if it's the worst. I know that I did. I finally decided that it's neither; but it's still a great film, and I still recommend it very, very highly. When you don't exactly know what the hell you're watching, yet you still enjoy the experience, you know you're witness to the latest radical cinematic acid-trip. I enjoy the surreal and the imaginative; and this is like a sweet, sweet dream. It is filled with images of sexuality, voyeurism, and even horror. There's so much crammed into one movie that you might even find it a bit pretentious. But filmmakers are allowed to do something that nobody else has the guts or talent to do. I know that Guy Maddin has certainly made something beyond what I've ever seen here, and that calls for celebration. Screw criticism; I say that this is a wonderful film, with a pulse. If you like silent films, you will like this modernized, stylistically-based one. It's nice to have a film that cares about not making too much sense on the first viewing. It requires me to revisit it. And I will do so like a gentleman should; and I won't complain, partially because I can't, and also because I won't.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 12, 2011
    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 Super Reviewer
  • Dec 12, 2010
    Part two of Guy Maddin's auto-biographical trilogy. Revolves around an orphanage in a lighthouse on an island, where a group of kids are raised by an overbearing mother figure and the father figure is a mad scientist. Explores themes of incest, gender swapping, repressed sexuality, vampirism etc. I really liked this one. Where the Saddest Music in the World and Cowards Bend the Knee felt like homages to an era that has come and gone, this feels a little more personal, while still taking ques from the eras of film that obviously inspire Maddin. This one is also a silent film, albeit with some narration here and there. Not much else to say. Recommended.
    Ed Fucking H Super Reviewer

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