Tales From The Gimli Hospital is aueteur Guy Maddin's feature debut. Made in 1989, Maddin spent years watching films with his friends, and, after having made some shorts, decided to throw his hat in the feature ring. Like almost all of his films (excluding Dracula:Pages From A Virgin's Diary), there are certain autobiographical elements to the piece, and it is heavily influenced, visually, by the silent cinema. This is before his jump into faster montage style cutting, a la early Russian cinema, and is smoother and a lot less obtuse than some of his more recent work.
The story focus's on Einar The Lonely, played by frequent Maddin collaborator Kyle McCullough, who, after developing a plague like sickness, ends up in the Gimli Hospital, waiting to die. He meets Gunnar (Michael Gottli), who shares the bunk next to him, and regales the beautiful nurses with all kinds of stories. When Einar attempts to do the same, to gain the interests of the nurses, he is constantly rebuffed. As Einar gets to know Gunnar more and more, though, he realizes he has a dark and terrible connection to him.
Gimli is a great first feature from someone who learned everything he knows about story and filmmaking method from simply watching films. This was in the late 80's, so there probably weren't a whole lot of filmmaking books available, and they probably weren't easy to find in Winnipeg, Canada. Maddin keeps the story moving and is, obviously, developing his visual style, even from this extremely early point in his career. Gimli may not be the best way to start watching Maddin films, but it is definitely one of his better pieces.