Friday, June 8, 2012

The Snake Pit

1948, 98m, Olivia de Havilland

A highly romanticized and sanitized depiction of mental illness, which does little justice to the depth of inner desolation it entails and the trail of destruction which it leaves. Virginia, the glamorous victim, suffers from an unspecified illness involving confusion and amnesia which lands her in an institution, where her fate is sandwiched between a callous and at times brutal establishment, and a handsome psychoanalyst. She is subjected to the painful treatments current at that period (electric shocks and hydropathy) but psychoanalysis has the day as her past traumas are pealed and all ends happily ever after, as she returns to the ministrations of a doting husband. The environment and conditions inside the hospital are more comical than horrifying, and conform more to the popular image than to any reality. As an early depiction of the subject, it is a very rudimentary and inadequate treatment which sugar coats the grim reality. Manifest behavior is the tip of the iceberg. The sea of experiential reality is invisible. Probably straight narration is an inadequate idiom. I am tempted to quote:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

2 comments:

kaist455 said...

Many movies about psychiatry made around that time are as inaccurate as this film, but I must say some of them are entertaining.

S. M. Rana said...

This seemed very stereotyped and simplistic, rather ludicrous, in fact.