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Posts Tagged ‘psychiatry’

mr_jones_poster

I remember watching this film in the cinema, which was 26 years ago (!!) I didn’t remember much about it other than it centred on a man suffering with bi-polar disorder – and one of the first scenes, where he walks out on a piece of wood over a construction site, endangering his own life, although he clearly thinks he is invincible. Anyway, something about the film must have stuck in my memory enough to make me want to watch it again.

Richard Gere is the titular Mr Jones (we never discover his first name) whose illness means that he suffers from very extreme mood swings. He gets treatment from psychiatrist Dr Libbie Bowen, herself somewhat vulnerable after a relationship breakdown.

Mr Jones is an undoubtedly charismatic character and Dr Bowen finds herself drawn to him, despite professional ethics and personal doubts.

I enjoyed the movie on second viewing; to me, Richard Gere did seem to somewhat overplay the role, but I have no personal experience of bi-polar disorder, and reviewers who DO have such experience have said that he was brilliant, so I concede to their superior knowledge. In any event, whether he overplayed it or not, it did not detract from my interest or enjoyment. Lena Olin was excellent as Dr Bowen, and her feelings towards her patient are believable. When he is ‘up’ he is lots of fun, hugely intelligent, but also dangerously unpredictable. When he is ‘down’ he is vulnerable and introspective; it’s a heady combination.

Anne Bancroft is also in the film as Libbie’s boss, but I felt that for such a great talent, she was underused. However, Delroy Lindo was my favourite character as Mr Jones’s friend Howard. Kudos also to Lauren Tom as fellow patient Amanda Chang.

The only thing that didn’t sit right with me was the convenient Hollywood ending, which felt wrong to me and all too easy. But it’s a quick ending, and thankfully didn’t spoil the rest of the movie.

Overall, worth a watch if you are a fan of any of the actors (or watch it for Delroy Lindo’s small but excellent role), or if you have an interest in the disorder from which Mr Jones suffers.

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Year of release: 1993

Director: Mike Figgis

Writers: Eric Roth, Michael Cristofer

Main cast: Richard Gere, Lena Olin, Delroy Lindo, Tom Irwin, Lauren Tom

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good-will-hunting

Will Hunting is a janitor in a school, but as it turns out, also a genius. Psychologist Sean is determined not to let Will’s hot temper get in the way of his future and tries to help Will find his focus in life.

Beautiful movie (unfortunately it’s a Harvey Weinstein movie which means I probably won’t watch it again) with an excellent cast. Very moving story and excellent acting by Damon and Williams. Minnie Driver was also brilliant in support.

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Year of release: 1997

Director: Gus Van Sant

Writers: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck

Main cast: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Minnie Driver, Stellan Skarsgard

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The book (apparently semi-autobiographical) tells the story of Dick and Nicole Diver, a glamorous couple, who seem to have it all – wealth, beauty and the admiration of all who know them.  The first part of the book is set near to Marseilles, when a young, emerging film star named Rosemary Hoyt, meets the Divers and falls under their influence, quickly convincing herself that she is in love with Dick.  At the end of the first section of the book, a specific incident occurs, which has a huge impact on Nicole.  The second  section of the book then goes back to when Dick and Nicole first met, and the reader learns that all is not as it initially seemed; the circumstances of their falling in love  throw an entirely different light on their relationship.  The third section of the book deals with the disintegration of their marriage, and the how each of them deal with it.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, because I loved The Great Gatsby, and thoroughly enjoyed Flappers and Philosophers (a collection of Fitzgerald’s short stories).  However, I struggled somewhat with Tender is the Night, and at times it felt like a chore that I had to get to the end of.  I think this is partly because none of the characters are very sympathetic, or even particularly likeable.  It’s difficult not to compare Dick Diver with Jay Gatsby, but whereas with Gatsby, as we learned more about his past, it made me warm to him, with Dick, as the layers were peeled away and we learned more about the man underneath, it made me despise him.  His behaviour in the second section of the book – the ‘flashback’ section – made him appear sleazy and willing to compromise his morals.

That said, I still find Fitzgerald’s use of language to be beautiful and emotive; at times it is pure poetry, and this is what really kept me reading.  The use of the flashback worked for me, although it temporarily put the brakes on the narrative.  There is another version of the book where Fitzgerald swapped the first and second sections around, so that the story was told in chronological order.  This version was apparently not well received, and I think I can see why.  The way the book is written, we see Nicole and Dick as a couple to admire and perhaps envy, then the rug is pulled out from under us as we learn more about the origins of their relationship.  This effect would be lost if the reader knew the truth from the beginning.

My favourite part of the story was the third part of the book, where the balance of power in their marriage shifts, and only one of them benefits.  I’m glad I read the book for this final section, and because some of Fitzgerald’s descriptions of moments and feelings are so wonderfully written, but the characters did not move me at all, and my main feeling once I reached the end of it was one of relief.

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This novel is set mainly in Berlin, in the months before Hitler came to power.  Martin Kirsch is a psychiatrist, about to marry into a rich family, but increasingly disillusioned with the path his life and his profession is taking.  When a young woman who Martin met briefly a short time earlier, is admitted to his clinic, with no memory of her own identity or her past, he takes on her case.  The young woman was found semi-naked, and the only clue to her identity is a flier for a lecture given by Albert Einstein.  The press are fascinated by the case and call the woman The Einstein Girl.  Kirsch too is fascinated by the case, but his fascination turns into a potentially dangerous obsession.  As he attempts to unravel the mystery of the woman’s past, he finds links with the eminent Albert Einstein, who is one of the Nazi’s most prominent enemies, and realises that danger could be closing in…

I’m in two minds about this book.  It started very well, and I thought I was going to love it.  However, as the story progressed, it became more and more convoluted, which I think hampered the telling of the story.  Generally speaking, I like books that weave fact and fiction, and this book certainly made me interested in finding out more about Einstein’s life, but even as a character, Kirsch himself often seemed unsure what was fact and what was fiction.  This does seem to be something of a recurring theme throughout the book, because at the beginning of the story is a letter from a character who does feature later on, which suggests that the whole book itself was written as a novel within a novel.

However, I was interested to find out the real identity of The Einstein Girl, which is revealed incrementally throughout the story, although it was never clear until the end as to what was true and what was false.

What I found particularly interesting was the glimpses into (now) outdated beliefs regarding psychiatry and the treatment of psychiatric patients.  Some of the ideas which were invested in, seemed particularly disturbing and there was a general undertone of menace surrounding the whole subject.

As a character, I found Kirsch hard to warm to, although I did feel that he was well drawn, and was believable.  Neither could I find much about The Einstein Girl to invest in (and indeed Einstein himself does not come across as a particularly sympathetic character).

All in all then, there were some interesting aspects to this story, and I would probably consider reading more by this author.  However, I feel that it got a bit too tangled up in itself at times.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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The Dorothy Fish is a psychiatric hospital in London.  N – the narrator of the book – has been a patient there for 13 years, and like the other patients, her ambition is to never be discharged.  So when a new patient named Poppy Shakespeare arrives, furious at being sent there, claiming that she doesn’t have any psychiatric problems, and determined to get out, N is confused by Poppy’s attitude.  Nevertheless, the two become friends, and N tries to help Poppy prove that she does not belong in the hospital.  But they soon realise that they are up against ludicrous bureacracy and a system that hinders those it is meant to help.

I had high hopes for this book – one of the quotes on the cover describes it as a cross between One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and Catch 22 – praise indeed!  Unfortunately, while it definitely has some qualities to recommend it, I found that it fell short of my expectations.

As a narrator, N was unreliable, and I could never be sure whether she was telling things the way they happened, or the way she imagined them.  This was probably part of the point however, and I had absolutely no problem with it.  Certainly some of the things she claimed to witness seemed too ridiculous to actually be real, but despite her self-centredness and her skewed take on events, she was quite an endearing character.  The whole book is told through her eyes, and using her vernacular (“I’m not saying nothing, but you know what I’m saying?!”)  She was also very funny at times (unintentionally on the part of the character, but surely intentionally on the part of the author).

One of the things that became apparent quite early on was how each patient (known as ‘dribblers) had a name that represented a letter of the alphabet – and it seemed only possible for anyone to admitted to the Dorothy Fish when the previous patient with that initial had left (for example, Poppy was admitted to the hospital, after Pollyanna had left).  I assumed that this was the author’s way of making the point that the health services saw them only as statistics rather than as actual people.  And that illustrates part of the problem of the book – it seemed to me that it didn’t know whether it wanted to tell a straight out story, or whether it wanted to be satirical view of the health services.

The ending was also unsatisfactory, at least from my point of view, and never really resolved the questions in my mind – which may have been deliberate, but was certainly irritating.  Certain parts of the plot didn’t make any sense – the process that led to Poppy being sent to the hospital in the first place for instance, but as we only have N’s account of how that happened, it’s impossible to know how much of it was true.

On the plus side, as I have already mentioned, it did have a number of very funny parts, and despite the problems, was very readable.  Other than the narrator herself however, it never seemed that any of the other characters were really studied, and they were mainly portrayed as broad stereotypes – again, possibly as a result of N’s view of them, but either way it didn’t work for me.

Having said all that, I probably would pick up another book by Clare Allan – she has a flair for humour and the writing flowed well.  Overall, it wasn’t a raging disappointment, but it didn’t live up to the rave reviews which I had read.

 

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When a young man (Johnny Depp) is brought into the care of psychiatrist Jack Mickler (Marlon Brando), claiming to be the legendary lover Don Juan, Jack finds himself getting drawn into the young man’s world, and realise that some of the magic is missing from his own.  As Don Juan tells the story of his life, and what has brought him to this moment, he starts to have an effect on all around him.  Is he Don Juan, or isn’t he?  And in the end, does it really matter…?

Ahhhh, such a lovely film.  Johnny Depp is probably at his most beautiful here – and plays the part of Don Juan to perfection; this is just the sort of quirky off-beat role that he excels at.  Marlon Brando is also excellent as the world weary Mickler,who finds himself rejuvenated by the magical tales that he is told.  Faye Dunaway (as stunning as ever) plays the part of Mickler’s wife Marilyn, who is curious about the changes she sees in her husband.

There’s plenty of subtle humour in the film, mainly in the form of throwaway one-liners by Don Juan, but it’s also a very charming and sweet movie, which will leave you with a warm glow.  If you’ve never seen it – treat yourself!

Year of release: 1994

Director: Jeremy Leven

Writer: Lord Byron (character of Don Juan), Jeremy Leven

Main cast: Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway

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