Set in a makeshift hospital that seems to exist somewhere between Scandinavia and what could be a parallel universe, Tales From the Gimli Hospital is Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin's surreal, black & white first feature. The film cleverly uses its own low-budget origin as a strength by re-visioning the techniques of the silent film era and early "talkies". During a visit to their dying mother in present-day Gimli Hospital, two children are subjected by their grandmother to a long, convoluted story concerning Ainar the Lonely (Kyle McCulloch) and his friend Gunnar (Michael Gottli). Thus we are transported back in time to a Gimli Hospital of the past, where Ainar and Gunnar, two patients sharing what seems to be the hospital's only room, compete for the attention of the Gimli nurses by telling stories which get progressively more complicated and bizarre as the rivalry between them escalates. They are also treated to puppet shows by the nurses, and they take time out for tree bark fish-cutting and, appropriately enough, tree bark fish appreciation. Tales From the Gimli Hospital has an off-kilter logic and sense of humor all its own and is comparable to David Lynch's Eraserhead in its ability to create in the viewer's mind the pervasive feeling that we are trapped in someone else's dream.
by Anthony Reed synopsis