A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Psychiatry is a relatively new discipline in medicine which has evolved quite rapidly. The mainstay of therapy less than a century ago was institutionalization. This method can undoubtedly isolate individuals, creating a deeper microcosm. Care evolved to include various surgeries and treatments that are recognized today as ineffective and some inhumane. While not perfect by any stretch, mental health care is now ideally multidisciplinary. Medications, counselling methods, and assertive community treatment (ACT) teams are among the resources used to help ensure optimal functioning in the daily lives of those living with mental illness. Integral to that piece is a caring, patient, and resilient psychiatrist, complementing holistic care and involving patients and families in decision-making. While set in the 1950s at the dawn of antipsychotic medications, Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer) exemplifies these essential qualities in A Beautiful Mind (2001) directed by Ron Howard.

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The film tells the remarkable journey of the late John Forbes Nash Jr., a renowned Nobel Prize-winning mathematician. The story begins in 1947 at the beginning of Nash’s undergraduate career. Russell Crowe earnestly portrays Nash as an aloof, introverted individual with a mind attuned to math and science. Nash’s opportunities and accolades within Princeton and later MIT grow, landing a teaching position at the latter. He later falls in love with and marries student Alicia Larde, beautifully portrayed in an Academy Award-winning role by Jennifer Connelly. With a promising future lies much turmoil, as William Parcher (Ed Harris) of the United States Department of Defense is becoming increasingly reliant on Nash’s abilities to decrypt enemy telecommunication. However, this quest to decode information along with other relationships reveal to be part of massive delusional belief systems. Nash’s physical health and safety suffer, and his marriage with Alicia is greatly tested with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The battle between reality and Nash’s own world is persistent and consistent. Recovering and relearning to function meaningfully and safely in society can take quite a long time, but Alicia’s and Dr. Rosen’s steadfast and attentive nature allows him to flourish.

A mind can be quite beautiful. It can create completely original pieces of art encouraging individuals to pursue further introspection. It can also formulate scientific theories to advance various types of research, benefitting the health and wellbeing of humanity. There may also be a division or duality within the mind, with some facets detracting from the necessary imaginative ingenuities. The actualization of ideas and fostering positive growth depends on a great deal of determination, ambition, and support from others. This concept was quite evident in this film, but it can be extremely applicable in knowledge acquisition and utilization on a global scale.

 

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I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this is part of the Christopher Plummer Blogathon hosted by Sean Munger! Please have a look at other awesome posts celebrating the acting career and many diverse roles of this most excellent Canadian actor!

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Mulholland Drive (2001)

The presence of dreams on one’s life course can fluctuate but it is ever-present. The precise meaning of the word “dream” varies as well. Firstly, our ambitions/dreams create purpose and drive, focusing our attention towards actualizing achievement and hopeful fulfillment. In viewing and experiencing struggles and successes, we experience the unfolding reality of these aspirations. Furthermore, we think of the word in terms of neuronal firings and subsequent image displays of random events that have occurred in our reality while asleep. This combined with yearning daydreams can alter our own perception of the truth, dismissing actualities of our surrounding environment. “Mulholland Drive” is a 2001 psychological thriller directed by David Lynch delving into these fascinating concepts with the ultimate appropriate backdrop – Hollywood.

The tale begins with an impending kidnapping turned car accident on Mulholland Drive. Laura Elena Harring is the sole survivor, fearful for her safety and eventually hiding in a wealthy woman’s townhouse who is coincidentally and thankfully going on a vacation. Meanwhile, Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) is a starstruck, wide-eyed, and aspiring actress who comes to Los Angeles from Deep River, Ontario. The very fashionable landlord Coco (the legendary Ann Miller) guides Betty to her Aunt Ruth’s luxurious townhouse. Betty discovers a female unknown to her in the apartment, who happens to be the lady who escaped the automobile accident. She calls herself “Rita” after seeing a movie poster of Gilda in the bathroom, diving into an episode of amnesia. Betty initiates and becomes entangled in a quest to rediscover Rita’s true identity. Further interrelated subplots occur during the story as well. They include a quest to find the dark-haired lady, revelation of a frightening dream in a diner, and threats to control a well-known director’s vision for his upcoming film. These stories culminate in a mind-blowing finale, introducing many more questions than answers.

primary_mulholland-drive-criterion-2015David Lynch is a master of detailed ambiguity. The majority of his films and TV series are filled with hidden gems and facets that are imperative in untangling non-linear screenplays. The beauty of his narratives are that these items and other plot devices are often unclear, as well as the presence of an obscure division between reality and fantasy. We therefore bring our own experiences, values, and beliefs in interpreting his films and creating meaning unique to our lives.

I must also highlight the collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti. His musical contribution to the brilliant Twin Peaks invites us to speculate impending doom yet appreciate beautiful simplicity. In this film, he accomplishes the same feat via minor chords and synthesized sounds. Silence is also key in appreciating moments of intensity and characters’ emotions, and the lack of music in those scenes is essential in accurately conveying those expressions.

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Crucial events in this film begin and end on Mulholland Drive. It is in this location whereby false hopes, shattered dreams, and lost identities unfold. The film industry certainly has its glamour, but it is not without its struggles especially related to control. Many other industries can create a facade of prestige, attracting naive, hopeful youth into their dream factory. This milieu can lead an individual to be swallowed whole by figurative piranhas. Large portions of their individuality, belief system, and personal lives may be sacrificed to mould their new and more amenable selves to the profession which now presides over their every move. Some may unfortunately not have the option to voice their opinions due to potential volatile oppression in these settings. While sometimes extremely difficult, the importance of maintaining our truths and being vocal can help to ensure that our principles are upheld in the face of major power imbalances.

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I do not own the above photos in this post.

 

Hoop Dreams (1994)

The social determinants of health are a group of factors which influence the health and well-being of populations. They include education, literacy, income, housing, food security, culture, and genetics among others. These elements collectively impact and determine health outcomes of a population, but can also be applied to an individual’s life trajectory. If there are certain determinants inadequately present in a person’s surrounding environment, the ability to live comfortably and/or to achieve daily or highly sought after goals becomes increasingly difficult. “Hoop Dreams” is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James highlighting the multiple elements shaping the courses of two promising basketball players’ futures.

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William Gates and Arthur Agee are two fourteen-year-olds living in inner city Chicago in the late 1980s. Insurance agent Earl Smith acts as a basketball recruiter for the prestigious private St. Joseph’s High School, priding themselves on their eye for talent and crafting of basketball stars. Both teens begin attending this school, making a long trek daily to advance their education and sportsman skills. The viewers are bystanders to their challenging and sometimes arduous journey from freshmen to the end of high school. Both face incredible uphill battles, from financial to familial to physical struggles. We yearn and cheer for their success and achievements as do their families and friends, and we greatly empathize with them in their trials and tribulations. The community of team sports is quite evident in the film, and that spirit is tangible through the screen.

The concept of “dreams” is present throughout the documentary. The two teens at the film’s epicentre undoubtedly have aspirations to finish high school, go to college, and to ultimately play for the NBA. However, their triumphs and ambitions extend beyond their individual selves and infiltrate into many other systems. Family members may live vicariously through them to relive their lost hopes, but family may also view their ambitions to chase and pursue their own goals. The talent of one may be preyed upon by a recruiting organization, fulfilling their “dreams” of winning competitions, grooming their novices into polished players. Behind the interrelated web of those beneficiaries, supports, and challenges lies a fire. This fuels drive within us all to pursue our passions and purposes. Roadblocks may be insurmountable at times in even thinking about those aspirations. However, I feel that it is crucial to remember and continue to follow these wishes and intentions no matter the speed. These passions and interests are a core aspect of our identity, and our participation in related activities whether large or small allows us to inhabit our true selves and to blossom more fully.

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I do not own any of the photos in this post. As well, this post is part of the Play to the Whistle Blogathon hosted by Film and TV 101 and Reffing Movies. Please check out posts regarding sports-related films associated with this blogathon between June 3 – July 8 (I am putting up my post early)!

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Wrap-Up – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

This has been a great weekend of sharing information and overall appreciation of cinema related to medicine. I have to thank everyone who participated, read and commented on posts, and shared the news about this blogathon! You all definitely made this such a wonderful experience, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. I will definitely be hosting blogathons in the future!

As promised, here is a list of films to include in the wrap-up, as well as links to each day of the blogathon! Thanks again!

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society – Dr. Kildare Film Series (1938 – 1942)

Tranquil Dreams – My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

B Noir Detour – A Woman’s Face (1938 & 1941)

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Day 1 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

Day 2 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

Day 3 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

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I do not own the photos in this post.

Day 3 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

We had another great day of fascinating, thought-provoking posts from the awesome bloggers partaking in the blogathon! Although this is technically the last day for the blogathon, I will write a wrap-up post tomorrow for any later entries. Enjoy perusing!

ALL THAT JAZZ

The Picture Show Girl – Good Night, Nurse! (1918)

Old School Evil – The Secret of NIMH (1982)

The Midnite Drive-In – Monk (2002 – 2009)

I Found it at the Movies – All That Jazz (1979)

Movierob – Awakenings (1990)MASH (1970), & Patch Adams (1998)

Moon in Gemini – Madame Bovary (1949)

dbmoviesblog – Spellbound (1945)

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I do not own the photos in this post.

Until tomorrow for the wrap-up!

Day 2 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

So we have come to the end of the second day of the Medicine in the Movies Blogathon. The posts today have been very excellent, interesting, and educational! Here is a list for your perusing!

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Cinematic Scribblings – The Wild Child (1970)

The Picture Show Girl – Dr. Jack (1922)

Champagne for Lunch – Three Men in White (1944)

Noirish – She Devil (1957)

Lifesdailylessonsblog – Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Movies Silently – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912)

Cinematic Corner – The Fountain (2006)

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I do not own the photos in this post.

Until tomorrow, my fellow bloggers!

Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

Ingmar Bergman is one director who I feel has left a body of work that represents the complicated and sometimes disappointing reality of human nature. The intricacies of human relationships are on full display in his films, delving into associated stressors and supports. A great deal of time is devoted to essential character development, enhancing viewers’ understanding of said relationships. The cinematography is carefully composed with a haunting tone under the direction of frequent collaborator Sven Nykvist. These are all hallmark components to a Bergman film. However, I feel that the openness of the stories allows for much introspection and meaning applicable to one’s own life circumstances. Through a Glass Darkly is a 1961 Swedish Academy Award-winning drama directed by Bergman embodying these qualities in spades.

The film is set on a secluded island during the hot summer months, and events gradually unfold over a period of twenty-four hours amongst four principal characters. Karin (Harriet Andersson) is the central character, fragile in nature. She was recently discharged from a psychiatric facility, having been treated with electroconvulsive therapy and diagnosed presumably with a psychotic illness. She has an overarching delusion with religious overtones infused with auditory hallucinations, dictating and controlling a large amount of her decision-making and behaviour. Her husband, physician Martin (the legendary Max von Sydow), is extremely devoted to Karin and concerned for her well-being. Her father David (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is an ailing, self-serving writer who sometimes uses others’ suffering as subject matter for his novels. Her brother Minus (Lars Passgard) has an unhealthy, immature, and extremely close attachment to Karin, yearning for attention and approval from his father. It can be deduced from descriptions of these close-knit yet diverse group of characters that confusion, conflict, and lament fill their existence and interactions. Overall, I feel that the film challenges our thoughts on familial relationships, mental illness, death, culminating into a surprising yet inevitable finale.

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The title “Through a Glass Darkly” is derived from the following Corinthians verse:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Verses from the Bible or any manuscript based in religion can have a variety of interpretations by modern readers. In my humble opinion, this verse refers to our own self-image and beliefs. They may be distorted by multiple environmental and internal factors, casting a dark shadow on our true abilities and goals. As Karin states, “it’s so horrible to see your own confusion and understand it”. Recognition of illness and/or suppression by concerned and caring strangers, friends, and family can elevate our self-esteem and self-awareness. Our evolution into genuineness may be supported by them or shunned based on outside expectations. Regardless, a wealth of knowledge and soul-searching in our “face to face” meeting with either a higher power or ourselves stimulates pause for reflection on struggles and joys in our past.

As with many Bergman films, glimpses and explorations into human connectedness are in action. Minus wonders whether “if everyone is caged in. You in your cage, I in mine”. We all experience this sentiment in life at times, some more frequently than others. The truth is that we never act in isolation or in microcosms. Human nature and relationships are dynamic, changing, and influence our very being and direction on planet Earth.

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I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this post is part of the “Favourite Director Blogathon” hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Midnite Drive-In! Please check out other posts about excellent directors in cinema that are a part of this blogathon!

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Day 1 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

There have been a multitude of excellent and informative posts today about medicine and its incorporation in films! I have greatly enjoyed reading them, and look forward to the next two days of posts. Here is a list so far of the bloggers and posts related to the blogathon’s theme!

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Thoughts All Sorts – Tombstone (1993)

For The Love of Movies – Contagion (2011) & Persona (1966)

Movie Movie Blog Blog – A Day at the Races (1937)

Silver Screenings – Night Nurse (1931)

Picture Show Girl – High and Dizzy (1920)

Maddylovesherclassicfilms – The Nun’s Story (1959)

Realweegiemidget Reviews – K-PAX (2001)

Critica Retro – A Farewell to Arms (1932 & 1957)

The Motion Pictures – Eyewitness (1956)

Sean Munger – Reversal of Fortune (1990)

Listening to Film – Coma (1978)

and…

Yours Truly! – A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

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Stay tuned for tomorrow’s recap of blog posts related to Medicine in the Movies!

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I do not own any of the pictures in this post.

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

Family is an integral aspect and concept inhabiting human existence. Conflicts among those closest to us are inevitable, and their eventual resolutions may be civil or volatile. We also depend on familial relations for support, love, and resiliency. Joyous occasions, such as a birth, can facilitate immense celebration and happiness. An illness in a family member can create fear, panic, reflection, yet enhanced connectivity. Thus, it is quite evident that the idea of medicine extends beyond physical and mental illness to encompass the vital component of familial coping and interaction with their loved ones. “A Woman Under the Influence” is a brilliant 1974 drama film directed by John Cassavetes, demonstrating the wide array of familial emotions in the midst of a loved one’s illness.

Nick Longhetti (Peter Falk) is a hard-working construction worker married to Mabel (Gena Rowlands) and father to three children. He is quite preoccupied with others’ perceptions of Mabel’s eccentricities, and serves to exert a great deal of control over her decision-making and her behaviour. Mabel is acutely aware of this power dynamic, and puts a great deal of effort in trying to be a great “hostess”. She is greatly disturbed and confused by others’ expectations of her behaviour, manifesting into odd mannerisms and occasional outbursts. A variety of events over the course of a day including questionable conduct at a children’s party to a heated confrontation with her mother-in-law Margaret (Katherine Cassavetes) led to Mabel’s certification and involuntary psychiatric hospitalization for six months. Upon her return home, the familial expectation was complete cure (i.e. acting within the norms of society). It quickly became apparent that illness in any shape or form involves recovery – experiencing life in the present and using healthy coping strategies to deal with daily challenges.

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This film has multiple assets which effectively conveys the stressors involved in living with mental illness. The acting is absolutely sublime. Peter Falk palpably harbours anger, confusion, and discontent with the reality of his ideal vision of family. The supporting cast’s emotions greatly increase the intensity and concern of their loved ones. However, I feel that it is Gena Rowlands’ acting talent and complete engulfment into Mabel’s world which makes this film a classic. She epitomizes the central struggle of a fragile individual living with a strained marriage and mental illness. As well, the long scenes feel improvised, allowing the viewers to watch an encounter where individuals’ behaviours evolve. Emotions heighten, and behaviours may become more unhinged and disintegrative in realtime. This enhances the fidelity of the film to many real-life circumstances, whereby the snowball effect leads to a potential familial crisis and an eventual intervention.

I believe that the title of the film lends itself to a variety of interpretations. Specifically, how was Mabel under the influence? Were her behaviours a manifestation of alcohol use, true mental illness, her personality, her reality, or her family’s expectations? In truth, a multifaceted lens needs to be adopted in understanding anyone’s behaviour. Psychiatry as well as other areas of medicine operates under a biopsychosocial model, in which biology, psychology, and social factors contribute to wellness or illness. Culture is another component influencing health care professionals’ and the public’s opinions on the manifestations of mental illness. Mabel’s behaviours and eventual hospitalization were not solely from an organic basis. They culminated from many aspects and ideas of our Western societal and cultural perception of illness, norms, and wellness.

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I do not own any of the images in this post. This post is also a part of a blogathon I am hosting between May 26 – 28 related to Medicine in the Movies! Please check out other related posts over the next few days as we discuss the impact of the medical field on cinema!

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Libeled Lady (1936)

All individuals find themselves in precarious situations from time to time. These embarrassing events may be completely unexpected, but more often than not there were precipitating instances leading to this specific moment in time. One’s wit, pride, righteousness, as well as their negotiation skills and shrewdness with other players shapes further twists and turns in this scenario, especially the outcome and potential lessons learned. Screwball comedies embody this overall comedy of errors, and the 1936 screwball Libeled Lady directed by Jack Conway with an all-star cast does this splendidly.

Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracy) is the managing editor of the New York Evening Star, a frenetic newspaper trying to obtain the latest scoop like all of the other competitors. Both he and his lovely fiancee Gladys Benton (Jean Harlow – my absolute favourite actress) are getting dressed for the wedding and are heading to the church. On that same day, a false story is posted about a wealthy socialite’s role in dissolving a marriage. Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) becomes the “libeled lady”, suing the paper a whopping five million dollars for libel! At this moment, Haggerty makes a beeline to the newspaper, leaving Benton extremely angry and hurt over his decision yet again to prioritize his work over her needs.

So, Haggerty has made his decision to deal with the needs of the newspaper. He feels as if he has to quickly use his noggin to persuade Allenbury to drop the suit. His old colleague and foe, the ever so suave and single Bill Chandler (William Powell), becomes involved in this cantankerous scheme at the pleading of Haggerty. Chandler’s role is to convince Allenbury to fall in love with him but to be caught scandalously with her by his wife. Who becomes his wife, you ask? None other than Benton! She obliges at the cajoling of her beloved fiance so that he can save face. As Haggerty says, “she may be his wife but she’s engaged to me!” As you may guess, much humour and tomfoolery ensues!

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This film has so many twists and turns throughout the plot’s plethora of deceptive arrangements, shifting attractions, and discontentments. It ensues to reach an emotionally intense yet hilarious finale. As with all screwballs, sharp repartee, a grand battle of the sexes, and memorable scenes (especially the greatest fishing scene in the history of cinema) are weaved throughout the film.

The electric cast and star power amplifies the film’s wit, storyline, and chemistry. All of the stars had contracts with Metro Goldwyn Mayer during the studio system era, and it was therefore much easier to create a vehicle with this star power fuelling the engine. It was Myrna Loy and William Powell’s fifth film together out of fourteen collaborations throughout their careers. While it was no secret that Powell and Harlow were a couple at the time, the studio pushed for another coupling of Loy and Powell secondary to their box office success. Either way, the winning screwball formula of this film created the impetus for a Best Picture nomination at the 1937 Academy Awards.

It is no doubt that screwball comedies are a true joy to inhabit and experience as a viewer. However, I feel as if this film and many other screwballs convey themes and messages that grapple with struggles at the core of humanity. Relationships are constantly tested in this genre of film, which is a fear yet reality of the human experience. As well, the division between social classes is a common theme. In this film, a man of the working class tries to undermine rich elitists. Variations of this plot device are present in many screwballs, which was quite reflective and contemporary to many in the Great Depression era. Therefore, I believe that great comedy can touch audience’s lives not just through humour but with a high degree of familiarity to our struggles and also our greatest delights.

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I do not own any of the photos in this post. As well, this post is part of the “Addicted to Screwball Blogathon” hosted by Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies! Please check out the other posts over the next day related to other fabulous screwball comedies!

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