This one is slightly reminiscent of A Dangerous Method, but this has a lot more to say, and frankly make the aforementioned movie now seem extremely below par. The psychoanalysis explored here is incredibly intriguing, and different, and makes Cronenberg’s piece seem very distracted and far less interesting, despite both being true stories.
I’ve liked Mathieu Amalric as soon as I saw him in Venus In Fur (still criminally underrated as Polanski back in form) and TGBH also, and here he gets one of the lead roles and does a fantastic job as a bit of an eccentric but confident anthropologist. He and Benicio Del Toro were the only reasons I watched this initially, Del Toro has always been one my favourite actors; I usually follow writers/directors rather than actors, but Del Toro is simply amazing in everything he touches. It is also amazing how he looks film to film – he looks better, and younger, in this flick than he did in Fear and Loathing almost twenty years ago!!
Here he is playing a war vet who suffers head trauma and is having spells of major migraines and blindness since. Plus he is playing a native Indian, so there are many subtle themes woven into the narrative without shouting it at you. The main thing I took from it was how as people from different cultures, we are at the same time very different but also all human and more similar than we think. It also touches on the treatment of native indians, though it is barely there, just again subtly written into the narrative as because he is Indian and drinks occasionally, all the white american doctors think he is a drunk, hence his symptoms. One of the rare times he actually adknowledges and speaks to them is to tell them “my name is Jimmy, not ‘chief'”.
Del Toro fucking nails the brain trauma victim, as I think I took more from his character personally as he reminded me a lot of myself. People say you are crazy, are schizophrenic, a drug-addict, when in reality you have brain trauma. Your mind is not well. You are judged. This aspect of the movie was done perfectly as I was able to relate with Del Toro’s character immediately, and everything about his character and his actions were realistic and executed with finesse. It is not a fun experience going through what he does, and even less fun when you are put in a nuthouse because of it and are surrounded by truly lost souls as you wonder “why the fuck am I here?” Definetely one of the better films that takes place in one of these facilities, though it has nothing on Cuckoo’s Nest or Persona, but still a great depiction.
The scenes where he talked about his past were really well done too, I was never confused as to what was a scene from the past or otherwise. Most of that is due to Del Toro, as he plays two different characters essentially, pre-accident and the present. He only talks to the anthropologist played by Amalric, who they bring in as a doctor with a shady reputation but happens to specialise in native indians, and his approach to psychoanalysis is interesting to say the least. It was further intriguing to see him use more unconventional methods – to western culture at least – and rather focused on spiritual aspects that the native indians believe and practice. His respect for native medidine and philosophy really gives the two some amazing chemistry on screen.
The basic story is predictable as all hell, and I really wish the movie inserted more conflict between the two. But there are some truly great, emotional scenes between Del Toro and Amalric that dig deep into the human condition, and despite their cultural differences they realise that they are not so different. It certainly helped that the script was well-written and filled with interesting, unconventional ideas.
This was also a fascinating look into how war vets were treated after WWII when it came to brain injuries. It is quite haunting, especially considering the fact treatment for people like Jimmy P. is worse in today’s world, with ‘Protecting freedom‘ and ‘keeping us safe’ used as excuses for sending young men to war. This of course applies to Vietnam veterans too. I thought this film was a great metaphor for this; how army veterans are treated if returning home maimed and disabled. The government they thought they were serving simply does not give a shit about them once they are no longer able to kill people, which in itself is truamatising for most people.
I was waiting for this to go down an unexpected path as it winded down.. And it kinda does and kinda doesn’t. But it is a true story so I guess they stuck to the actual events. Overall a very interesting film that, despite its flaws, tells an interesting story while also touching on various social subjects that happened to be a part of his life and treatment at the hospital. Nothing is exagarrated, and the movie is filled with emotional scenes and conversations. It has some profound messages that easily make up for the fairly standard plot arc.
3.5/5 – Sorry DC, I love your work, but this one is infinitely superior to your own take on psychoanalysis.
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