Originally commissioned by a Toronto gallery as an installation comprising 10 six-minute short films, each viewed separately through a peephole, Cowards Bend the Knee unfolds in feature form as a thrilling gesture of wry, self-deprecating, and unflinchingly honest introspection. Drawing inspiration from Greek tragedy and the gauzy black-and-white aesthetic of silent cinema, this unapologetically expressionistic first installment of Maddin’s quasi-autobiographical Me Trilogy centers on a fictionalized Guy Maddin (Darcy Fehr). He is reimagined as a Winnipeg hockey player who, after his girlfriend dies following a botched abortion, finds himself navigating increasingly convoluted familial and romantic commitments against the backdrop of his own self-defeating (and unmistakably Freudian) personal neuroses.

Preceded by
Stump the Guesser
Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, and Galen Johnson, 2020, Canada, 19m
Surreal superimpositions, Dutch angles, strobing abstract animation, and thunderous title cards collide in this tale of a carnival mindreader who finally meets his match, told as a raucous hodgepodge of tropes derived from Soviet silent cinema. Expanding a strange universe created by Guy Maddin alongside frequent collaborators Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, Stump the Guesser is a bizarrely humorous and modernist dystopian fable packed with incest, guessing milk, real crabs, and more.