It doesn't take much to indict the unjust institution that protects its psychiatric integrity above actually listening to its so-called mad subjects. It takes much more to let the mad speak for themselves: in opacity of gesture, in speech that unwinds itself, in exercises of reason that reveals the arbitrariness behind the sane/insane distinction. As a portrait of norm-power's need to exclude, the film is indelible.
I don't really know what to think about this one. It is overwhelming, and hard to watch. I feel like the editing plays with us, and it only takes us so close. Provocative and earth shattering for the time. It gets 4 stars for the humanity, the balls to make the film, and the pain that the camera captures fleetingly.
Wiseman's debut took us behind the walls of a state prison for the criminally insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts and exposed the cruelty, mistreatment and taunting of those supposed to be getting therapy. Famously banned from public exhibition for over 25 years the film has lost none of its incendiary power. A difficult watch that one wonders how the filmmakers were allowed to film in the first place. Essential.
As someone who has experienced modern day psychiatric abuse, I can say the authoritarianism, perverse ideology and "diagnostic" procedures are the same today as in 1967. Because there is no medical evidence in psychiatry it really comes down to the "patient's" story versus the doctor's -- and the former has already lost because he's been labelled a patient.
A very complex issue is oversimplified and given a flawed understanding, making it hard to find a middle ground between the real problems depicted and the ones probably more invented by editing than real, making this both ethical for its courage and unethical for being manipulative at times. There might be more truth in between scenes, just as a crazy person appears to be logical at times. Props for the real stuff.