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Mental Illness: Major Films   no photo.
TitleGirl, Interrupted (1999)
Alternative/Original Title
DisabilityMental (Borderline personality disorder)
DirectorJames Mangold
CastWinona Ryder Angelina Jolie Clea DuVall Vanessa Redgrave
NotesThe main character in Girl, Interrupted is one who is not seriously mentally ill (cf. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Winona Ryder's 18 year old Susanna Kausen has "borderline personality disorder". This is the fairly meaningless phrase with which she is catalogued when arriving at the psychiatric clinic near Boston. Her ticket of admittance is a pathetic attempt at suicide and a somewhat disengaged attitude to life. This allows us to emphasize with her, and for her to be the observer of the other patients and staff. Her fellow patients while being more serious than she are not dangerous (to others) or catatonic. They are also all young women and the atmosphere of the institute is more like that of a sixties hostel for pregnant girls. We should keep in mind that the drama is set in 1967 and is based on the true story of Susanna Kaysen. I would cast aside the true story bit but the film does reflect a period in the treatment of mental illness before so many were cast out onto the streets. Of the six young women the film concentrates on there is one who has burned her face, another who eats only chickens from her father's shop (loosely connected with sexual abuse) and one, Lisa, who is called a sociopath. Lisa played by Angelina Jolie bears comparison with Jack Nicholson's character in One Flew Over . . . It is she who creates most of the dramatic confrontations ending at one point in a padded cell revealing the darker possibilities of even this 'cosy' institution. While the acting is good and the events portrayed reasonably interesting the film lacks depth. We don't come away with any real understanding of why the characters act as they do. And because the action is set in 1967 we learn very little that we might bring to understanding mental illness today. This need not be the purpose of the film. Worth considering is how Susanna's diagnosis is undermined by accusations of being promiscuous and self-indulgent. Also there is a clash of social classes especially between Susanna and Lisa. http://movie-reviews.colossus.net/movies/g/girl_interrupted.html

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