COWARDS BEND THE KNEE started life as a peepshow installation at the Rotterdam Film Festival in January 2003. It is now playing in theaters as a feature film.
"One long peep is enough to to see this unique and naughty installation. Each of the ten peepholes is filled with action and heated moments of violence and carnivorous sexuality.
A first-of-its-kind, ten-part peephole installation jam-packed with enough kinetically photographed action to seem like a never-ending cliffhanger, Cowards Bend the Knee is a Feuillade serial ultra-condensed and blenderised. If fiction is sometimes barely disguised autobiography, Cowards Bend the Knee is its mirror image, twisted and poisoned wish-fulfillment: the mythomaniacal Maddin casts `himself' as a hockey sniper made lily-livered by mother and daughter femme fatales, and resurrects his father as the team's radio broadcaster and his own romantic antagonist.
Set in a shadow-suffused hockey arena and a Mabuse-like beauty salon-slash-abortion clinic lined with two-way mirrors, the plot drips with the Grecian formula, as sordid family secrets spawn unintentional murder most foul. Veering into penny dreadful territory with the introduction of a vengeful ghost and uncontrollable extremities as windows into the unconscious, one recalls Hands of Orlac; Maddin fixates on his characters' groping and fisting expressionist paws, bathing them in ethereal light and chopping them into dazzling, iris-heavy micro-montages. Room to pant is provided by slo-mo replays, alternately poignant and explosive: lurid, frenzied moments of impulsive violence and carnivorous sexuality lend this bewitchingly onanistic work - easily devoured in one voyeuristic standing - the sublime naughtiness of an antique hand-cranked skin flick.
Maddin: `A lovingly self-loathing peek at myself, but only as I would have enough courage to look - through a cracked glass made foggy by hairspray.'"
- Mark Peranson, Rotterdam Film Festival