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Romina Carrisi Power
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A brilliant film for those who can appreciate more than the boring fluff and cheap thrills churned out by most mainstream filmmakers
This is a powerful film that had me riveted to my seat during its entire length. The acting of the entire cast - especially the two lead characters - is absolutely brilliant, the script is well- crafted & believable and the photography is both hauntingly beautiful and absolutely bone- chilling.
The film focuses on the deep and disturbing relationship that develops between the opium- addicted Dr Brenner (Ulrich Thomsen), a doctor who arrives to work in an institute for the insane in the early 1900s, and his patient Gizella (beautifully portrayed by Norwegian Kirsti Stubo). She is a long-term inmate who is obsessed with the idea that she has been possessed by the devil, and whose only release from her inner torments is to write compulsively and almost non-stop in her diaries. Brenner's professional interest in Gizella becomes complicated by his growing envy of the fact that she can write so freely and passionately, while he - an aspiring writer - struggles to put any words on paper. Their relationship is further complicated by a powerful mutual desire that develops between them, culminating in an intense sexual episode, and by the fact that Brenner begins to appropriate Gizella's writings, which he plans to pass off as his own. Gizella comes to believe that the sexual relationship between her and Brenner means that they are now "husband and wife", and her condition appears to improve. However, when Brenner repudiates & mocks her belief in front of the head of the institution (played with just the right amount of icy arrogance by Zsolt Laszlo), she becomes hysterical. Her madness returns and even increases in intensity. During the ensuing treatment - which is more like torture - Gizella begs Brenner to give her relief from her ongoing torment by "removing my brain". Brenner's subsequent actions provides the climax to this powerful film.
The depiction of the horrific treatment inflicted on psychiatric patients in the early years of last century may be deeply disturbing to many, but it is absolutely truthful. Electroshock therapy, ice-water showers, force-feeding, total confinement and even frontal lobotomies (crude brain surgery) were part of accepted medical practice of the time for those considered "insane". I absolutely disagree with those who have described this film as "exploitive' - it simply shows the situation in all its grim reality pretty much exactly as it was back then. In fact many of these forms of treatment were continued until the late 1950s, even in supposedly enlightened countries like Australia.
In summary, a riveting and beautifully crafted film that will leave you with haunting memories for years to come.
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