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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Lobotomist is a story of the talented psychosurgeon Walter Freeman
and his unfortunate patients. Freeman devoted his life to the promotion
of the lobotomy - the operation technique notoriously praised by the
Nobel Committee and later cursed by both medical profession and the
This movie presents a balanced story, telling first of the dire circumstances of the health system that prompted psychiatrists to seek drastic measures. This was the time before the advent of anti-psychotics, with overcrowded, prison-like mental hospitals, and lobotomy was looked at as a risky but plausible chance to eradicate the nastiest symptoms. Freeman gained some fame and strove to extent the scope of operations.
But even after the pharmaceutical treatments were found, Freeman carried on with his barbaric procedure, with many patients deteriorating far beyond their initial state and many operated on without any proper reason. Why wasn't he stopped? The reasons are presented in the movie, making it a caution for all of us.
Unique historical footage and interviews of former patients, their relatives and people who knew Freeman and worked with him, all mixed with interesting facts, make for an excellent documentary.
I cannot stress strongly enough that this documentary from "The
American Experience" is VERY hard to watch!!! Not only is the topic
very disturbing, but actual photos of lobotomies are shown and you WILL
see folks with ice pick-like rods shoved through their eye sockets into
their brains!! Do NOT watch this is you are highly sensitive and do NOT
show this to kids!! This film is about the amazing proliferation of
lobotomies that was championed by Dr. Walter Freeman. While it's not
exactly a biography of Freeman, it does follow much of his life and
discusses his crusade to popularize this seemingly barbaric operation.
It discusses his successes, but it also discusses his many
failures--including some patients who died or were permanently disabled
due to this brain surgery.
Like a typical episode of "The American Experience", this one is made up of photos, interviews and the like. What makes it a little different is that two of Freeman's sons participated as well--making this a highly unusual film and offering unusual insights into the motivations of the man. Well worth seeing and very compelling--thank God this sort of treatment is, for the most part, no longer done as better and far more human procedures are now available.
It would be interesting to see a film like this about Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT)--especially since the way it's done and its long-term side effects have changed dramatically over the years.
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