Tuesday, 3 February 2009

"What do you think you are, for Christ's sake, crazy or something?"

I watched One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest yesterday, for the first time in a long time. You know what? I had forgotten just how good a film it is. Having seen Changeling at the cinema recently, I was interested to watch other portrayals of mental healthcare in cinema. I know that Ken Kesey's book was written in the mid-Sixties, and that treatment had visibly moved on from that seen in the 1930s of Changeling... but it hadn't moved on much. And the fact that R.P. McMurphy, who is arguably only in the asylum as a way of dodging the hard-time of prison, can end up lobotomised... really not moved on that much at all.

The other interesting theme to emerge from the movie is the question of defining madness - who's sane and who isn't? The BBC's Horizon programme did an interesting broadcast on this recently, in which several mental health service users (as they are euphemistically called these days) and an equal number of "normal" people were sequestered together under the watching eyes of a panel of supposed experts. These experts, including clinical psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, had the devil's own job working out who was who. Apart from the obvious - the guy with OCD got really uncomfortable when faced with the task of mucking out a cowshed - it really was tough to tell. Interesting, yes? As Randall says in Cuckoo's Nest, "You're no crazier than the average asshole out walking around on the streets, and that's it!"

Interesting footnotes: Cuckoo's Nest was the first film for nearly 40 years to win all the big five Oscars (best film, director, actor, actress, screenplay), a feat that wasn't repeated until 1991 with Silence of the Lambs. And it was on continuous general release in Swedish cinemas for twelve years from 1975-1987 - some kind of record, surely?

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