Lilith is a about a mysterious young woman in an elite sanitarium in Maryland, who seems to weave a magical spell all around her. A restless, but sincere young man with an equally obscure ...
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Lilith is a about a mysterious young woman in an elite sanitarium in Maryland, who seems to weave a magical spell all around her. A restless, but sincere young man with an equally obscure past is seemingly drawn into her web. As time passes, their relationship deepens and intensifies, and the differences between them begin to blur, leading to a shocking, but oddly logical conclusion. Written by
Rhea Worrell <email@example.com>
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[at a meeting with the assembled staff]
So many of these people have such extraordinary minds. Such extraordinary sensibilities - too extraordinary, I think, sometimes. This is not a scientific theory... maybe it's romantic. But I often compare them to fine crystal which has been shattered by the shock of some intolerable revelation. I often have a feeling when I talk with them that they have seen too much with too fine an instrument. That they have been close to some extreme - to something ...
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One of the great pleasures of watching older films is that, beyond the obvious joys of character and plot, they also offer us a look past the films' action and into the world in which they were made: the fashions of dress, design, and social attitude that prevailed at the time. All of this "background," so taken for granted by the filmmakers in their day, can, when seen across a focal space of time and social change, reveal fascinating elements unguessed-at when the films were made.
So it is with LILITH. Other comments on this film have more than adequately discussed the plots and motivations of the characters; what I found unexpectedly mesmerizing and appalling was its view of the mental institution of the mid-1960s. Warren Beatty's character has no experience in such a setting, but he'd like to "help people," so he's hired on the spot and immediately put in charge of patients who, by definition, aren't responsible for their own actions. The inmates seem to be mostly left to do as they please, whether it be teetering at the edge of a precipitous cliff or wandering off in the woods, easily slipping away from their inattentive keepers.
When Beatty's character begins to be attracted to Lilith, the chief shrink calls him in and asks if this is the case. "No, I don't think so," says Beatty, patently lying through his teeth. "Well," says Dr Big reassuringly, "it's not unheard-of for patients to fall in love with the orderlies, and sometimes, unfortunately, it happens the other way as well." And that's that: with this appalling (to modern-day ears, at any rate) bit of 'advice,' or possibly nudge-wink encouragement, he pats the oafish horndog on the back, tells him he's doing a great job, and sends him off to town on yet another date with Lilith. Whenever Beatty does express concern about anything job-related, the medical staff just interrupts him with "don't worry, you're doing a fine job" and gently shoos him out.
What a different world it was, forty years ago! Mind you, I'm not judging the film by social standards that never occurred to its time; indeed, the things it reveals about the 'care' of mental patients in 1963 are what made it most interesting to me. All the characters are either entertainingly insane or arrestingly clueless idiots, and Lilith herself is a sufficiently complex and compelling character to make this melodrama watchable all on her own.
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