Elms: A Cine-Essay

Guy Maddin’s current filmmaking partner, the also Winnipeg-based Evan Johnson (with whom Maddin directed his upcoming feature, The Forbidden Room), created four original short “cine-essays” as supplements for Criterion’s release of Maddin’s My Winnipeg. Below is one of them, titled Elms. When we asked Maddin “Why elms?” he replied:

Elms are everywhere in Winnipeg, planted here in the last of the town’s boom years, around 1909 for most of them. They’re glorious in full maturity, and expand above the rooftops a lushness that is otherwise completely absent in this hardscrabble city. Alas, Dutch elm disease is now threatening to wipe out the elms and strip the city bare. I don’t want to be stripped bare, it wouldn’t be pretty, and I certainly don’t want to see Winnipeg denuded either. But the issue goes far beyond beauty. When a Winnipegger beholds a beautiful elm, he or she uncomprehendingly beholds almost the entire history of the city, beholds too the mortality of the tree, and of everything beneath its boughs.

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