A different look into psychoanalysis, and how we are all human no matter how different
This one slightly reminiscent of A Dangerous Method, but this has a lot more to say, and frankly make the aforementioned movie now seem extremely below par. The psychoanalysis explored here is incredibly intriguing, and different, and makes Cronenberg's piece seem very distracted and far less interesting, despite both being true stories.
I've liked Mathieu Amalric as soon as I saw him in Venus In Fur (still criminally underrated as Polanski back in form) and TGBH also, and here he lands one of the lead roles and does a fantastic job as a bit of an eccentric but confident anthropologist. He and Benicio Del Toro were the only reasons I watched this initially.
Del Toro is playing a war vet who suffers head trauma and is having spells of major migraines and blindness since. Plus he is playing a native Indian, so there are many subtle themes woven into the narrative without shouting them at you. The main thing I took from it was how as people from different cultures, we are at the same time very different but also all human and more similar than we think. It also touches on the treatment of native Indians, though it is barely there, just again written subtly into the narrative: Because he is Indian and drinks occasionally, all the white American doctors think he is a drunk, hence his symptoms. One of the rare times he actually speaks to them is to tell them "my name is Jimmy, not'chief'". He for the most part will only talk with the anthropologist.
Del Toro nails the brain trauma victim, as I think I took more from his character personally as he reminded me a lot of myself. People say you are crazy, are schizophrenic, a drug-addict, when in reality you have brain trauma. Your mind is not well. You are judged. This aspect of the movie was done perfectly as I was able to relate with Del Toro's character immediately, and everything about his character and his actions were realistic and executed with finesse. It is not a fun experience, and even less fun when you are put in a nuthouse because of it and are surrounded by truly lost souls as you wonder "why am I here?" Definitely one of the better films that takes place in one of these facilities, though it has nothing on Cuckoo's Nest or Persona.
The scenes where he talks about his past were really well done too, I was never confused as to what was a scene from the past or otherwise. Most of that is due to Del Toro, as he plays two different characters essentially, pre-accident and the present. He will only talk to the anthropologist played by Amalric, as he has been asked for, despite being a doctor with a shady reputation. But he happens to specialise in native Indians, and his approach to psychoanalysis is interesting to say the least. It was further intriguing to see him use more unconventional methods – to western culture at least – and rather focused on spiritual aspects that the native Indians believe and practice. His respect for the religious ways of his client is admirable and the world would be a better place if more doctors were that open-minded.
The basic story is predictable as all hell, and I really wish the movie inserted more conflict between the two. But there are some truly great, emotional scenes between Del Toro and Amalric that dig deep into the human condition, and despite their cultural differences they realise that they are not so different. It certainly helped that the script was well-written and filled with interesting, unconventional ideas.
This was also a fascinating look into how war vets were treated after WWII when it came to brain injuries. It is quite haunting, especially considering the fact treatment for people like Jimmy P. is somehow even worse in today's world, especially with US Army propaganda proclaiming they are 'Protecting freedom' and 'keeping us safe' - two of the most-cringe worthy quotes constantly repeated on US television, especially in sport, by athletes themselves, which on its own is disturbing given how big sport is in the US. I could go on and on but I won't, I simply thought this was a great metaphor for how army veterans are treated if returning home maimed and disabled. The government they thought they were serving simply does not give a toss about them, which is the unfortunate reality.
I was waiting for this to go down an unexpected path as it winded down.. It kinda does and kinda doesn't. But it is a true story so I guess they stuck to the actual events. Overall a very interesting film that, despite its flaws, tells an interesting story while also touches on various social subjects that happened to be a part of his life and treatment at the hospital.
3.5/5 – Sorry DC, I love your work, but this one is infinitely superior to your own take on psychoanalysis. This film has a big heart and makes for an emotional watch.
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