Sunday, September 5, 2010
The film depicts the world through the eyes of Peter Winter, a schizophrenic in his twenties. The depiction of insanity has grown into a genre ( List from Wiki) and schizophrenia is a sub-species. Some films, like A Beautiful Mind and Proof, romanticize the condition. Ingmar Bergman, in The Hour of the Wolf and Through a Glass Darkly has given cameos which seem more like generalized reflections about the human condition. Stanley Kubrick cashes it into a horror in The Shining. What is very sure is that the inner world of a mentally sick person is a mysterious and by no means a glamorous one and an adequate representation of this harrowing widely prevalent disease will have to be awaited. Perhaps this can only be done by a film director suffering from schizophrenia, but if he could do that, he probably would not be one.
The present film deals with the condition with something like clinical honesty. Peter hears sounds with a heightened intensity (like electric wires humming) but this is more associated with narcotics than schizophrenia. He hears a threatening and abusive voice, presumably that of his father. He is obsessed with seeing his daughter, who was given to adoption. There are gruesome scenes of self mutilation--he is completely (but wait, nothing is that complete) possessed. The film has a superb climax, which resolves the plot threads on their own terms.
Kerrigan retains objectivity and does a fine job of not underplaying or romanticizing the condition. He shows it for the terrible thing that it is. What is most remarkable is the humanity and compassion he has retained. He is reminding us that the mentally sick are human beings, no matter how extreme the disturbance. Schizophrenia is not something one is, but something one has.