One flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.
Der freie Wille (2006) – The Free Will
Woman Under the Influence is so amazing and hard to watch….there are a few scenes in particular that are raw and filmed like a home movie. Gina Rowland’s ability to register these facial expression just rolling across her face, it is so real. The impact on her husband and children is also very clear, along with how bizarre it is that she is sent off and no one knows how to act when she returns.
There is a film about Frances Farmer, what’s the name?, with Jessica Lange, that doesn’t pull any punches either!
Good God…I AM a woman under the influence!I don’t even know how that instant repeat happened!!
I have spent 20 minutes trying to erase it …. oh, well, it fits the subject.
I feel that Bob’s observations about Europa 51 apply to this one also.
The issue of family putting someone away to make society comfortable, the insane behavior and ignorance in relation to the sick persons struggles, all are expressed poignantly.
(and this time i will not keep banging on the bar because it doesn’t seem to be working).
That reminds me, the title ‘Woman Under the Influence’ is so good, it is never named, whatever"it" is that is troubling her…
is she under the influence of her husband who shouts at her? of isolation? exhaustion? drinking?
J. Hall – “There is a film about Frances Farmer, what’s the name?, with Jessica Lange, that doesn’t pull any punches either!” Well. it is just called Frances (1982) and has an excellent performance by Ms. Lange in the title role.
Frances Farmer hosted a daytime movie program in Indianapolis which I would occasionally watch when I was a kid. She would often tell stories of her own film career – brief as it was – and show her films. This is a key film for Jessica Lange.
I would say that Gena’s character in Cassavetes’ brilliant Woman Under the Influence suffers from the influence of conformity. That is, the need of others to make her conform – in her role as mother, wife, and surrogate mom to Falk’s male friends. It’s a straight-jacket (pun intended) she needs to break free of – by going ‘mad’. Again – the madness is mainly in the eyes of others – at least, in the context of the film. Nothing is ever explained re what ‘sets her off’.
This is all very Laingian in its interpretation of Gena’s character’s symptoms. R.D. Laing ideas on psychoanalysis were very in at the time of the film and surely an influence on Cassavetes’ treatment. Laing believed that much of mental illness was a reaction to painful forces in one’s environment. He was an early advocate for the rights of the patient and recognizing that much of the stigma attached to mental illness was from society’s need to make its members conform to certain types of behavior, often to the detriment of the individual.
I love this film. Great points JA. Excellent observation about the title of the film JH. What exactly is she under the influence of? This was my first Cassevetes film and I loved it. I thought Gena Rowlands performance was amazing on so many levels.
I saw Frances years ago. I will have to revisit that one.
I agree with all J. Hall’s posts – A Woman Under the Influence is one of my personal favorites about someone just plain losing it. It’s impossible not to get drawn into and it stands up well with numerous repeat viewings.
I thought Clean, Shaven was decent – not spellbinding by any means. One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest is naturally an easy choice. I think Requiem for a Dream bears mentioning. Not directly about “mental illness” it’s definitely about addiction. Addiction, by definition is a mental illness…so I think that would be the one I’d pick.
J. Arthaus- the information about R. D. Laing is fascinating, thanks. An example of how film makers are responding to so much and incorporating it in their work. I am especially interested in Laing’s theories for the same reason that Woman Under the Influence is so significant; birth are about the ideas you describe, of being made crazy by the influences in your life. I absolutely agree that mental illness is a reaction to painful forces in one’s life! Cassavettes had a way of just being inside a situation, letting things happen, and revealing a deeper layer of the character’s life.
J.Hall – Also, what I like about Cassavetes’ approach is that he doesn’t draw a line under his characters that says this person is a good person, this person is a bad person or this one is crazy, this one is not. In this film, and his others that I have seen, he tends to make us realize that all his characters are flawed – perhaps deeply flawed. However, he also presents things in such a way that no judgments are ultimately made. Things happen – just like in real life – to affect his characters. The husband and wife in Woman Under the Influence are acting against one another but ultimately – in acceptance inspite of all – for one another. In his films, there is no tidy resolution. There is no ultimate understanding or dramatic catharsis.
We are left with a mess that must untangle itself. There is no one there to do it for us. In the case of mental illness, those there to help may be just as blind to the conditions of the person suffering as the person who is mentally ill is to their own condition. In reality, there is no resolution in Woman Under the Influence. She is not necessarily ‘cured’. She is back with all the flawed and skewered relationships that drove her to distraction in the first place. Yet, she does have a caring, loving husband – just as unbalanced as she is.
That is why this film gives us a very true and deeply discerning look into the personal relationship abyss that is mental illness. In reality, there are no comfortable solutions or productive cures. Gena’s character has so much of her effervescence and charm drained from her by the experience of rejection and incarceration. A spark in her is now killed – perhaps forever. She is not the carefree free spirit that we first encounter. This is true to life – painfully true.
In another context, Anne Bancroft has given us two brilliant performances of a similar Woman Under the Influence in The Pumpkin Eater and The Slender Thread. In both films, her character is the victim of circumstances beyond her control that threaten her mental stability. I would also recommend both these films in the context of this discussion. Her performances in these films is revelatory, proving what a great actress she was.
LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE depicts a suicidal, obsessive compulsive Japanese man, thrown together with a pot smoking Thai woman by a tragic turn of events.
Also, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES for depression. Hypnotic and deeply melancholy.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Leo DiCaprio played a convincing idiot. Was he playing himself?
A Scanner Darkly definitely shows the mental illness present in prolonged drug abuse. Once again, was Keanu Reeves just playing himself?
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
A Street Car Named Desire
‘val lewton’ wrote the screenplay for ‘bedlam’, a 1946 favorite with ‘boris karloff’ in the lead role and ‘billy house’ in a fine performance as ‘lord mortimer’.
more recently, i’ll go with ’scorsese’s’ ‘shutter island’; the trailer is so out of context; you’d think it was supernatural. see for yourself.
Suddenly last Summer lIz is so beautiful in it, and clift and Hepburn go at it pretty good.
And I loved Michael Clayton. Both Clooney and tom Wilkinson who is fast becoming one of my current favorite actors. Wilkinson’s rants are classic as far as i’m concerned.
@J. Hall: Agreed. Betty Blue is haunting and very sticky – I saw it years ago and still can’t shake it.
All Around Us has one of the least sensationalist, rational depictions of depression I’ve seen to date.