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Careful is a captivating film directed by Guy Maddin, starring Kyle McCulloch, Gosia Dobrowolska, and Sarah Neville. Released in 1992, this independent Canadian film is categorized as a tragicomedy, expressing Macky Maddin's distinctive sense of surrealism and a fetishized antiquarian style. With a surreal, melodramatic, and strangely humorous approach, Maddin weaves a distinctively unique tale set in the artificial Bavarian Alpine village of Tolzbad, which presents itself as a dreamlike, quiet, and almost painterly pseudo-Germanic 19th-century world.

The narrative deliciously thrives on its eccentric twists and turns, unveiling its plot and thematic concerns in a fable-like manner. The story centers on the Schultze family, particularly the three brothers Johann (played by Kyle McCulloch), Franz, and Grigorss, who live in the mountain town of Tolzbad. Here, citizens are excessively wary of triggering an avalanche with loud sounds, demonstrating a theatrical obsession with restraint that resonates throughout both the narrative and formal aspects of the storytelling. Most of the town's inhabitants regulate their behavior and modulate their voices to an absurd extent, extending to the animals that are trained to motion in silence too, encapsulating a universe of repressed emotions, secret passions, and quiet whispers.

The three Schultze brothers form the center stage of this repressed town, each striving to keep a tight lid on their desires and aspirations. Johann, portrayed by Kyle McCulloch, is an aspiring butler dedicated to a life of subservience. His fascination with Zenaida (played by Gosia Dobrowolska), his mother's comely maid, fuels a series of tragicomic events that bring the carefully architected calm of Tolzbad to the brink of chaos. His brother Grigorss seeks to live in Zenaida's shadow after an accident renders him blind and struggling for identity. The story explores the forbidden love, the conformist society, and familial struggles with a patently surreal flavor.

The film's distinct aesthetic is commendable, driven by the visual style of early cinema, using color primarily in a truly innovative way. Film, usually in neutral tones, occasionally bursts into raging colors to underscore heightened emotional states or newfound perils. These color dynamics, coupled with the stunning set design, meticulously rekindle an imitation of early silent film and German expressionism. The angled and artificial sets offer a perfect setting for the plot's growing chaos, made even more enchanting with the hauntingly beautiful orchestral score.

Despite being a low-budget movie, 'Careful' never shies away from its ambitious narrative and visual ideas, somehow managing to have elephants, purpose-built snowbound towns, and a whole mountain in its frames. Moreover, the dialogue is dramatic, lifted from the pages of Old Testament-like doom predictions, and beyond-fantastic fairy tales, creating a labyrinth of abstract concepts that might seem puzzling at times but never tedious.

As a majority of the cast members were non-professional actors and local theater artists, their performances engender a unique atmosphere that effectively complements Maddin's cinematic style. Particularly, McCulloch's portrayal of the quietly desperate Johann is subtly nuanced, lending an unnerving undertone to his character's developments. Dobrowolska, amidst the predominantly non-professional cast, stands as a beacon of professional acting and is deft at capturing the heart of her character, adding layers to the captivating Zenaida.

True to its name, 'Careful' demands careful viewing. It is a dream, a nightmare, a lullaby, and a scream - all wrapped into one. It is the embodiment of dignified silence being shattered by untamed passion and deeply buried obsessions. Disguised as a parody of the soap opera genre, this film steps over simple satire to craft a space that exists in its cinematic universe.

The layered narrative, coupled with a visually mesmerizing experience, positions 'Careful' as a cornerstone of Guy Maddin's filmography and a genuinely distinctive creation that further pushed the creative boundaries for art-house cinema in the 90s. This film is far from ordinary and its storytelling methods are idiosyncratic, making it a remarkable viewing experience, especially for audiences with a penchant for unconventional cinema and a taste for dramatic flair housed in a humorous setting. Thus, 'Careful' can be considered a testament to Maddin's imaginative genius and a treasure hidden within the lesser-known depths of independent films of the 90s.

Careful is a Horror, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy movie released in 1993. It has a runtime of 100 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.0. It also holds a MetaScore of 62.

How to Watch Careful

Where can I stream Careful movie online? Careful is available to watch and stream at Kanopy.

Guy Maddin
Kyle McCulloch, Gosia Dobrowolska, Sarah Neville, Paul Cox, Brent Neale
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