A couple of days before 1899 Christmas, the Oxford new graduate Dr. Edward Newgate arrives at the Stonehearst Asylum to complete training for his specialty of asylum medicine. He is met by armed men who take him to Dr. Silas Lamb, who welcomes his help and takes him under his wing. Edward is shocked to see the methods that Dr. Lamb uses to run this asylum. He becomes infatuated with Eliza Graves, one of the patients who is a lady of status and does not seem to belong. One night, Edward overhears a knocking from the bowels of the facility and is shocked to find that everything is not as it seems in this place and that his uneasy feelings may be justified. What will Edward Choose?Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Comin' Thro' The Rye
Traditional, Poem by Robert Burns
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Take your meds and watch it
I did enjoy this film. Its a nice piece of Gothic melodrama rather than a Gothic horror (as it's made out to be) not least because its concern is to humanise rather than exploit its subject matter. 19th (and 20th) century mental asylums were fascinating and terrifying places, and fortunately or unfortunately depending on your opinion the film doesn't really explore the worst horrors that took place in those institutions. Etc is one of the 'abuses' that used to be forced on people, but since its still in some circumstances used today (as it can be effective for treating depression amongst other things) its got a slightly ambiguous status as an 'horror' treatment (although I've met people who were profoundly angry at being forced to undergo it). Despite this - the film works very well, not least because we never know quite what to expect from Ben Kingsley and the always top notch David Thewlis as the villains of the piece, and to go with the melodrama there's some genuine villainy & tragedy to keep the narrative going not to mention a few twists and turns.
I've no idea how this relates to the tale by Edgar Allen Poe, but the director / writers have managed to balance the sense you get when reading a Wilkie Collins novel or other 19th century melodrama with the (slightly) more critical perspective we have today, although having said that the idea of a therapeutic community - an idea implicit in much of the film - remains quite controversial even today, where drug treatments as a first line of intervention remain the norm rather than the exception. Combined with this is the equally perhaps more controversial idea that sanity is a function of the society we live in - something which is definitely true to some extent - as in the example of hysteria the film addresses - but to what extent is far more controversial? The solution conjured at the end may or may not be if you like a psychotic departure from reality depending on your opinion on the nature of mental illness.
Overall then a very nice little film, with a great cast, and good pacing.
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