These days it is hard to find something truly original. Something that makes me sit back and think: I can’t compare this to anything. But Guy Maddin’s ‘My Winnipeg’ did just that.
Because ‘My Winnipeg’ is a documentary, but unlike one you’ve ever seen. For one, it’s not true. But mockumentaries have existed before. Yes, but none of them use silent movie era cinematography and combine this with the occasional animation or reenactments of the director’s personal life, which might not even be based on real-life experiences for all I know.
Maddin’s voiceover says that all the family members are being played by actors apart from his mother, who was played by his actual mom. But the end credits disprove that. Even the voiceover can’t be trusted here. It’s very hard to untangle fiction from reality here, both in looking back at Maddin’s own life and the Winnipeg he grew up in.
And that’s what makes this documentary so much beautiful, because it’s not really a documentary at all. It’s a dreamlike, semi-autobiographical poem that occasionally touches base with reality and then takes off again.
Was there really a hobo-town on the rooftops? Doubtful. Was there a park called ‘HappyLand’? Could very well be. Were there really frozen horses in the river trying to escape? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. And I don’t really want to find out. This is Maddin’s Winnipeg we saw; it doesn’t need to be true.