Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Titicut Follies

Frederick Wiseman (dir), 1967, 84m, documentary
The film chronicles the conditions in an institution for the criminally insane in the US. It was a subject of prolonged litigation and its open exhibition suppressed for a long time. The litigation was ostensibly for alleged violation of privacy of the inmates and personnel of the institution but actually because it depicted the less than ideal conditions prevailing. I was expecting to see barbarism of medieval vintage. Actually, we have a fairly neutral and objective lens view, and the patients seem to be reasonably well tended. The desolation that comes across is more the inherent attribute of mental illness, and the no less taxing task of managing people with semi-vegetable minds. The not so well educated attendants and even doctors tend to treat their charges as objects, more so because the conditions shown are currently classed as incurable. Could it be that long years of exposure not only immunizes the caregivers to suffering and makes them partake to some extent of the condition of their charges. The behavior of the attendants is a mixture of mild bullying and indifference. This is a telling, if not startling, film about the world of mental illness and by extension the human condition, since the lines demarcating normalcy are necessarily hazy. The outstanding feature of the film is truthfulness, not being an enacted film.

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