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There have been a multitude of movies that have looked at mental illness,
from inside and out, but I don't know of any that has romanticized
schizophrenia less than this one.
No colorful Blanche Dubois here, with her tag lines like, "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers." No stunningly gorgeous Catherine Deneuve disintegrating along with the rabbit carcasses in her apartment. No appealingly misunderstood Janet Margolin and Kear Dullea who find a way out of the maze through love. No sensational expose of the mental health system as in "The Snake Pit" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Michael Risely is not a tormented genius either, nor does he win a Nobel Prize or leave a legacy of art masterpieces, music, or writing behind. And the love and support of his girl friend, Adrienne Shelley, doesn't save him -- as it wouldn't in real life.
Risley and Shelley are two ordinary people who find their lives struck by lightning. About one percent of the population will go through an episode of schizophrenia, and the ripples spread out from them, encompassing friends and family.
Risley has an ordinary personality and looks rather ordinary, as does his fiancee. He brings her a kitten in a bag full of food and tells her not to get too attached to it because he wants to get it in the pot as soon as possible. His humor is deadpan. And this flattish quality makes it more difficult for everyone, including himself, to recognize the first appearance of paranoid delusions. At first, they're minor. Somebody seems to have rearranged the items on his desk and he warns his puzzled coworkers not to do it again because it's "adolescent." Like the rest of us "normal" folk, he has a job, although it doesn't pay very well. The delusions begin to interfere with his performance at work and he loses his job. In the course of lending him support, his fiancee loses her job as well. This is how it generally works. When you are gravely disabled, you alienate your friends and family and you lose your paycheck. Now you've got money problems on top of everything else. And one of the worst places you can do this is New York City where such secondary institutions as psychiatric services are geared to provide minimally effective, impersonal custodianship under depressingly shabby conditions.
The details of Risley's descent into madness ring depressingly true. Hospitalized, he lies in his bed at night listening to a phone ringing insistently somewhere. And the director provides us with still shots of empty corridors, institutional sinks, and vacant chair seats. Nobody's home. When he tries to walk down the darkened hallway at night, for reasons unclear even to him, he is stopped by a burly black guy (aides and orderlies are disproportionately people of color) who tells him politely but very firmly to get back to his bed.
It's a first-rate script, if you're looking for naturalism. There are weaknesses in the direction -- so many shaky shots with a hand-held camera. Images that fill the screen are too often glaring closeups, making the viewer even less comfortable than he/she needs to be. The story is strong enough as it is. Sometimes when a character is speaking we see only part of his face, a jaw with a telephone receiver in front of it, or half a head, as in a commercial for a brokerage firm. There is little in the way of music, which is okay. The amplified sound track turns the drip of a faucet into a sound filled with foreboding. The lesser roles are well written too. As is usual when someone is spotted standing on the ledge of a tall building, there are people watching from the street yelling at him to go ahead and jump. None of the principal actors deliver performances that call attention to themselves. The level of competence seems to be about the same as in a made-for-TV movie. But the narrative is so strong it carries the picture along. And actually the movie, being realistic, is pretty depressing. Nobody knows what causes schizophrenia. There is clearly some genetic loading, as twin and adoption studies have demonstrated, but there's much more to it than that, because most often if one identical twin "has it," the other does not. Some prenatal or environmental trigger? No one has identified it yet. To make matters as bad as possible, schizophrenics are so wrapped up in their own illnesses that they form no bonds with their fellow sufferers. They don't have the kind of mutual support that most minority groups, like African-Americans or women, can depend on. They're socially bankrupt. A true tragedy.
This film truly fascinated me. It shows Jackson's deterioration from being a normal guy into a mentally unstable schizophrenic. It starts kind of quietly..almost an annoyance. He questions a co worker about moving things in his desk. This is coupled with the fact that he has knowledge that his girlfriend's nephew is an expert 12 year old hacker. Jackson is a critic who does reviews for certain websites. This schism of images from a website sets off ideas that his girlfriend's nephew is sending him subliminal messages. He slowly starts to become paranoid thinking people are messing with his well being. Then to put the final nail into his fragile mental state,Jackson sees a commercial for this perfume called "Revolution #9." He begins to believe this commercial is behind this whole plan to run him into oblivion sort of. His mind becomes so convoluted with paranoia that he slowly becomes incoherent and obsessive. He rambles on about industry's advances and how they will truly demoralize him. His girlfriend holds on to the person she once fell in love with despite her family and friends insistance on leaving Jackson. She tries to get him psychological help,but he believes they are part of the overall plan,too. He sets up a meeting with the commercial director of the perfume to understand the ultimate evil corporate plan which really doesn't exist except in Jackson's mind. I understand that some people may not be able to last through the film. It is surrealistic and different..a lot of camera angles in twisted contortions,hand held movements,some digital to create some grittiness,and a lot of quick cuts and fast editting..even closeups of different objects. All of this is to create a sad universe that revolves around Jackson's mental decline. I thought the film was outstanding and gripping. The acting from unknowns was quite good. The late Spalding Gray being in it does add an allure,but the film is compelling on it's own. ****1/2/*****
Apart from a denouement that will leave many angry (i.e those who need
everything spelt out for them) this acute and heady psychological drama is
well worth checking out.
A goofy 20something (Adrienne Shelley) brings home her handsome catch to meet her folks before announcing their engagement. Look for this in the great opening scene; the discussion the boyfriend is having with his girlfiends young brother over the computer as it's a beautiful piece of foreshadowing.
The gist of the premise is simply this; new boyfriend seems everything a gal could want, until he starts showing signs of beligerance and paranoia. Most of this is aimed at a wishy-washy commercial for a new perfume - he thinks there's something sinister in the subliminals. When he starts looking to others for sympathy to his plight in bringing this secret order to world attention, he ends up with social-egg on his face.
Things progress downhill as we watch his mind unfold. Without the usual theatrics associated with this disease-of-the-week formula, this film packs a wallop and one is sucked into the maelstrom that is his altered state of consciousness. A brave indie that doesn't sell itself out for \the-please-love-me school of sundance wannabe commercialism.
Surely this is what low-budget, independent filmmaking in terms of
fulfilling its potential is all about. The unique qualities that
differentiate film from other dramatic media like stage plays, audio-tapes,
live television, etc. are evident in this film in great abundance. I was
not at all put off by recurrent multiple visions, time-lapse episodes, color
variations, and other visual effects that have annoyed one or two other
viewers commenting here. What is truly amazing about the film is how it
takes an ensemble of little-known actors and commonplace settings and
creates something powerfully dramatic without losing the verité effect of a
politically and socially relevant documentary.
As others have said about the subject matter (some seem very familiar with it in clinical terms), it grabs you by the throat and won't let go even after it comes to a rather abrupt end. I, too, have known people with similar mental illnesses, and have found myself in real life playing many of the roles pictured here -- though to varying degrees and with different outcomes. A sensitive viewer may even find himself or herself identifying strongly with one or another of the characters, which is always a measure of great acting and great storytelling. This film ought to be watched from beginning to end in a dark room with no one else present to offer comments, preferably late at night when one is left at the conclusion with no option except to relive the experiences for an hour or so in complete solitude.
This is a movie that comes with no laugh track. 10 of 10.
A taut, edgy psychological drama, brilliantly acted by newcomer Michael
Risley and veteran Adrienne Shelly. I know of no other film that so
and nakedly depicts mental illness, that takes the viewer inside the
excruciatingly painful experience of gradually losing one's grip on
and forfeiting control of one's life. At the same time, the protagonist's
notion that he is the target of a media conspiracy is depicted as merely
exaggerated and distorted version of the overwhelming media saturation
manipulation we all, each and every one of us, experience from day to
"Take but degree away, untune that string, and hark what discord follows,
said Shakespeare's Ulysses in his play Troilus and Cressida. In this film
sense just how tenuous that string by which we hold onto our sanity, and
everything that matters to us in life, can be.
While the film takes us subjectively, with unnerving close-ups, odd angles, abrupt shifts of focus, into the disorienting experience of its protagonist, it at the same time creates an eerie sense of not only a character increasingly alienated from his world, but of a world of people, objects, even a cityscape themselves sensed as increasingly alien. In holding focus on an object or an image for just a second too long (that is, longer than would be needed to establish that it is the character's bizarre fixation), the unnerving gaze and the sense of the familiar turned suddenly unfamilar feels as if it is our own. In other words, the ordinary world starts to look like something we have never seen or noticed before.
All of this is accomplished by the director with the strength of honest story telling that is the tradmark of his work (Desolation Angels). As stylized and artistically accomplished as the film is, one never senses that it is trying to be self-consciously arty or manipulative for its own sake. It is the story told from the point of view of a man increasingly out of joint in a world itself falling out of joint. So truth, from this perspective, requires that the camera itself be "on tilt."
About the performances one can only admire the intensity and focus brought by Michael Risley to his portrayal of a man going out of focus. We are with him every step of the way, and---and this is I think the trick---our sympathy for him only increases the more off-putting and bizarre his behavior gets. Someone once said you have to be a pretty good skater to play a drunk on skates. Risely navigates this thin ice brilliantly. Adrienne Shelly is also utterly captivating in a very difficult part: the girlfriend who, though utterly powerless to help him, nevertheless tries---not only because she perhaps loves him, but because it is clear that no one else in the world cares or is even concerned. Without ever seeming to give up hope, she senses the situation's desperation, and what is finally at stake. And so, while played as someone vulnerable, even wounded, and tender, she nonetheless brings something of real human strength, even quiet heroism, to the part through her decency and forbearance.
Finally, the film is also, on another level, an indictment of the mental health system and about the cloud that still surrounds mental illness in this country. Legally, there is no way to hold Jackson (Risley's character). And he is too ill to commit himself. And even then, who would pay? Not the insurance companies to be sure. And families for the most part are either financially, emotionally, or socially ill-equipped to cope with the mentally ill. While the film takes the viewer, together with its lead actor, deeper and deeper into the vortex of madness, it nevertheless offers a sobering view of a troubling and grotesque social reality and of affliction that, on more than one level, hits close, too close, to home.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tim McCann's film is a well crafted portrait of a young man in the early stages of schizophrenia. I was eagerly awaiting the film after enjoying his powerful debut, "Desolation Angels". I had the pleasure of checking the film out in NYC during it's theatrical run and it did not disappoint. McCann develops his characters with confidence and skill while staying away from the expected cliches. I have a friend with a severe mental illness and can say that McCann is right on in his understanding of the subject. And Michael Risley's performance was phenomenal! These guys are going places. All around, a terrific cast in a refreshingly assured film; >
I've noticed that most of the comments on this film are from people who are either big fans of independent film or friends of those who have tragically sufferred from the disease portrayed by the film-makers. I am neither, and would like to recommend the film to others who consider themselves more mainstream. Yes, for a variety of reasons I won't go into (I don't want to ruin it) Hollywood might never have made this film. But that doesn't mean it isn't a gripping drama with more internal coherency than many big-budget pictures. The fact that it touches on some political issues is an added bonus to a movie that should, otherwise, appeal to open-minded but otherwise mainstream audience members. If you get a chance, check out this film, you won't regret it.
Revolution #9 is not a thriller, it's a gritty, affecting drama that tackles the subject of mental illness head on. Nothing is glamorized here. This is a down and dirty, sometimes blackly comic film that displays genuine talent on the part of writer/director/cinematographer Tim McCann and his extremely strong cast. Disturbing and powerful, it's a film Hollywood would never make - one of the best recent examples of why a vibrant independent film scene is so important.
Realistic portrayal of a man's descent into mental illness coupled with sharp media satire. Speaks volumes about our society's over saturation of commercialism and suggestive imagery. Amazing performances flesh out a dark, edgy story that definitely deserves recognition.
Revolution #9 is the one film that finally gets it right! Most people
who write about mental illness (MI) seem to develop the screen play and
then simply make one of the characters MI, almost as an after-thought.
That simply becomes a movie about mental illness; in Revolution #9 we
are taken into the head of a person who has schizophrenia, and we are
able to see (as first hand as possible) what it would be like. To get a
real accurate idea of both sight and sound of the schizophrenic world,
I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who wants to get a first-hand look at the world of a person with MI. And remember, no matter what you would say, even though it makes perfect sense to you, and is right in your mind, nobody will believe you. Believe me, I know; I've been MI for 15 years.
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