I was watching Bottle Rocket by Wes Anderson this weekend and in the film some of the characters are recovering from mental problems. The film actually addresses how these characters are dealing with their problems. One is trying to avoid his “issues” and another is actually facing them head on. The film is very accessible and fun to watch specially for someone that may not want to be preached at. I believe The Royal Tenenbaums would also be a good film to watch for someone dealing with childhood traumas, specially those related to family.
@ KONRAD SZLENDAK
Haha you and me both! I personally found Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre therapeutic, but I question how many people’s sensibilities I would offend with such a selection—let alone the number of lawsuits our hospital would receive!
The Wrestler (maybe)
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
@ Captain “what films they are already showing these kids”
Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story, The Pursuit of Happiness, Remember the Titans, Antwone Fisher, Forrest Gump, Freedom Writers, Finding Forrester, Good Will Hunting
@ Captain “some films that would fit your criteria of what you would like to show them?”
The clinical director at my hospital has approved of Last Life in the Universe, The Kid With a Bike, and Secret and Lies.
I apologize for my much belated responses, and I appreciate all the considerate people who have posted thus far. For the past week, I have met with my clinical director several times in order to discuss about restructuring the film therapy curriculum and the therapeutic value behind Last Life in the Universe, Secret and Lies, and The Kid With a Bike. After our last meeting, my clinical director told me the last phase before I start instructing film therapy was finalizing my lesson plan around each aforementioned film. I plan to post a detailed write out about the themes I want to focus on for each film, where I plan to pause for discussion, what questions I will raise to the clients, and my overarching objective. I am open for feedback and if you would like to contribute please watch the films I have listed out!
I plan to post my rough draft to Last Life in the Universe lesson plan on Friday night and The Kid with a Bike several days after!
Has the clinical director of your hospital seen Last Life in the Universe and Kid with a Bike , or are they at least aware that they are foreign language films? Assuming of course that you are in an English speaking country because of the other films they are shown (Forrest Gump, etc.). Not saying that foreign language films should automatically be dismissed, but I know that most kids do not like to watch films with subtitles (with the possible exception of Asian action films).
Thank you for keeping the discussion alive on this thread. I promise I will post my lesson plan tomorrow morning. In the meantime, please ask more questions!
Yes, my clinical director knows the movies I am showing are foreign films. At first, I was hesitant to include them within my criteria since I have come to understand American studios would much rather make a remake of a foreign film as opposed to porting a film overseas. Thus, its assumed the clients entering our hospital have limited exposure to foreign films or if any at all. Along with adolescents having a short attention span related to a genetic predisposition, social media, stress related to external and internal factors from their hospitalization – I thought my proposal to my clinical director was going to get shot down. However, as my clinical director pointed out, if we on an every day basics conduct groups where were extracting painful memories from a client and their peers are there to support them then with the proper guidance whether the film was made domestically or foreign should be a non- issue. The question remains though, why even have a distracting and alienating quality like subtitles when you can find an equally poignant American film? Honestly, I have a selfish agenda in wanting to bring exposure to often overlooked art house films to a mainstream audience. In my selfishness though, I recognize the films will ultimately resonate with the patients since the themes within the films I have selected contain universal issues. In addition, even though the patient demographics is mostly American born, many come from different heritages around the world. Also, the patients already watch every film with subtitles since the television is housed within a reinforced plexiglass container.
“I recognize the films will ultimately resonate with the patients since the themes within the films I have selected contain universal issues. "
Oh, I am not arguing that the issues/themes dealt with in those films are not applicable to the patients. I have not seen any of those films, so i just have to take your word for it.
Anyways, I’m rootin for ya, and would be interested in your lesson plan, though I will admit to also being very curious how these kids will react to having to watch a subtitled film.
Also, I didn’t understand that last sentence. Are you saying that the television has on closed captions and no sound?
What about “Bastard out of Carolina” or “Girlfight” for victims of abuse?
Or “River’s Edge” and “Over the Edge” on general adolescent disconnect?
I always preferred subs in group.
Here is the lesson plan as promised. I focused more on observational analysis as opposed to the questions I plan to raise during my group since there are three other people at the clinic who will also contribute their insights to my notes. I am open to feedback and hope you all bear with me as I slowly craft an identify for myself as a film therapist.
Comprehensive Film Analysis
The film, “Last Life in the Universe”, centers on a Japanese immigrant named Kenji and his time in Thailand. The opening shot gives the viewer a glimpse into Kenji’s orderly life: books are stacked neatly on his bookshelf, clothes color correspond with one another, dress shoes are arranged by the day they are to be worn etc.
In the following scene though we are confronted with an arresting image of Kenji with a noose around his neck, suspended in mid-air with a suicide note saying, “This is Bless”. Along with Kenji’s monologue overlaid onto the scene about his suicidal thoughts, the director Pen-ek Ratanaruang sets the stage for inquiry. Pen-ek Ratanaruang leaves Kenji’s reasoning for wanting to end his life purposely ambiguous. We at least know Kenji’s lonesomeness extends to a point where he fails to identify with those experiencing similar suicidal fantasies since he states in his monologue about how his reasoning does not follow the normal trends. The audience is left to wonder if Kenji purposely attempts to control the environment around him in order to cope with the inner turmoil residing inside of him or the tedious, monotonous routine in constantly organizing objects itself reveals a troubling truth about his sterile existence. Regardless, the two viewpoints converge on how Kenji desires an escape from his present reality and his fixation on his death reflect this sentiment.
Kenji continues to drift through his life and vividly fantasizes about his death until he encounters an equally displaced person in Noi. Kenji and Noi had inadvertently met each other after witnessing the death of Noi’s sister. Prior to their meeting though, Kenji had undergone an epiphany after reading a short parable called The Last Lizard. The story goes as follows:
The lizard wakes up and finds he’s the last lizard live. His family and friends are all
gone. Those he didn’t like, those who picked on him at school, are also gone. The
lizard is all alone. He misses his family and friends. Even his enemies. It’s better
being with your enemies than being alone. That’s what he thought. Staring at the
sunset, he thinks: What is the point in living if I don’t have anyone to talk to? But
even that thought doesn’t matter when you’re the last lizard.
Kenji’s new found resolve allows him to initiate a conversation with Noi and helps facilitate a nurturing relationship between the two. The two characters, as we discover are polar opposite to one another. Kenji often secludes himself and is reserved in his interactions, whereas Noi, while messy, possesses a spontaneous and exuberant personality. Kenji and Noi also come from different countries and speak different languages from one another.
Despite these differences, the two relate and identify with each other since both Kenji and Noi attempt to come to terms with their respective problems. Noi harbors guilt stemming from contributing to her sister’s death. While Kenji, as it’s implicitly implied, wants to escape his troubled past with his Yukuza affiliations. As they continually interact, the audience bears witness to their transformation through the subtle changes in their personality. Kenji’s change is externalized when he kicks over his organized stack of books, messes up his hair, and even takes up Noi’s habit in smoking. On the other hand, Noi begins to dress professionally and keeps up her house. Even as the action heightens and their respective past catches up for each of our heroines, through the relationship Noi and Kenji develop over the course of film, they manage to persevere.
We see this most evident in how the closing scene parallels the opening scene with the visual motif ,“This is Bless”. However, the visual motif has taken on a new meaning when placed among his belongings he has gathered from his Yukuza past to his present relationship with Noi. The movie closes with Kenji taking a cigarette from his “present” possessions strewn out in front of him, he takes two puffs before holding his head up with dignity and beams a hopeful smile as he contemplates about Noi – the metamorphosis process for Kenji is complete.
“Last Life in the Universe” uses an unorthodox filming style compared to the fast paced editing present in many Hollywood films. Christopher Doyle, the cinematographer when handling themes related to alienation and loneliness as he done in his other best known collaborations with Wong Kar Wai, favors long-shots. He effectively tampers with his color palette and light manipulation in order to translate the aforementioned themes onto celluloid.
In “Last Life in the Universe,” Doyle conjures up a dream-like atmosphere to pace with Kenji’s depressive state. In the film’s first half, the colors are muted when Kenji performs menial labors in the library and attends to his obsessive housekeeping. The colors though become saturated and lush in the latter half of the film once Kenji discovers warmth within his interactions with Noi. Doyle also deliberately captures his shots to emphasize the characters’ relation to their surroundings. Kenji and Noi are often not the subjects but rather objects in their environment as if to accentuate the negative space around them. With Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s surrealist sensibilities at work in several scenes, the rich imagery and atmospheric driven narrative needs to be approached from a certain mode.
In the case for our clients, they can utilize the breathing exercises learned from Yoga when watching films like “Last Life in the Universe.” From my understanding, Yoga is instructed as a coping method for stress but also to increase the client’s bodily awareness. One way we can observe how one responds to visual stimuli is through monitoring our breath or other bodily-language signs. Often times our bodily sensations are more reliable towards expressing our authentic emotions as opposed to trusting in our mind to reflect how we truly feel about a given situation.
The disconnect from our minds to our hearts relates to environmental factors whether from one’s upbringings or the society at large. Even at a young age we are taught expressing a full of range emotions has consequences and gradually we distrust our emotions. Thus, informing the clients about increasing one’s physical awareness and questioning the clients about the physical sensations that arise during key scenes allows them to become more comfortable with these suppressed emotions.
With that said, I want to stress to our clients about viewing the dream-like film with their hearts as opposed to their minds. I plan to pause for discussion at the slightly surreal scenes when Kenji fantasizes about drowning in a river and Noi’s tragic memories in regards to her sister start flooding back once she smokes weed. I would then ask the following questions:
Do you remember your feelings and sensations, or whether your breathing changed throughout he movie? In all likelihood, what affects you in the film is similar to whatever influences you in your daily life.
Notice whether any aspect of the scene was especially hard to watch. Could this be related to something that you might have repressed?
Did the following scene touch you? The fact that a character or a scene moved you might indicate that your subconscious mind is revealing information that might guide you toward healing and wholeness.
“Last Life in the Universe” is a meditation on the human condition and at the center are two characters whom may very well represent an Everyman. The movie is set in Thailand but with three different languages spoken in the film. The narrative is mainly focused on questions concerning redemption in respect to Noi’s bereavement over her dead sister and Kenji’s search for purpose amidst his bleak past. The story may very well take place in the lives of its audience members due to the universal questions raised in “Last Life in the Universe.” Kenji’s life had become unbearable to a point where death was the only option for peace, while Noi floated through life as a call girl. Even though Kenji attempts to integrate himself honestly in society as a librarian and Noi smokes marijuana to lessen her grief, the malaise for the two continue. Only through resolving the question echoed through the lizard parable, What is the point in living if I don’t have anyone to talk to?” do our heroines find hope.
Clients entering our hospital come from different cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, and age groups. Despite these differences, as seen through Kenji and Noi, they can also form a healthy and meaningful relationship with the clinicians or other clients at he hospital. After all, we are all in this together and no person has immunity to the tragedies of existence.
@Captain “Also, I didn’t understand that last sentence. Are you saying that the television has on closed captions and no sound?”
Its difficult to hear the sound from the television, even if we set the volume to full since its housed in a reinforced plexiglass container as a safety precaution.
From the poor reception after I posted my lesson plan here, I was surprised to learn how I am set to pilot the film tomorrow. I was hoping people would criticize me on this thread since I’m dealing with a difficult population. I need all the feedback all I can get so I can improve. Anyways, wish me luck.
It went well! Thanks for all the help, mubi community!