Insanity is a fascinating subject. Many books have been written on it and many movies made. Shutter Island, A Beautiful Mind, Bird Man and Silence Of The Lambs are some of the famous films which explored the unruliness of mind. Here, ahead of your weekend, we have compiled a list of lesser-known, brilliantly made films on schizophrenia.
This Malayalam film, directed by ace auteur Adoor Goopalakrishnan, is one of the finest works on mental illness from India. Ashokan, Shobana and Mammootty appear in the lead roles in this film, which has a linear narrative style. It starts off as a monologue by the protagonist Ajayan about his childhood. He’s an orphan, growing up in a rich rural household of a doctor, who is always away at work. He lives with three old men – A retired assistant of the doctor, a cook and a driver. He’s brilliant, energetic and a voracious reader. The film pauses when the monologue is over and there begins another version of the same story. In the second version, Ajayan is an introvert, struggling to tame an irrational, unstable mind. The films juggles between reality and hallucination. It ends at a point where both the versions converge. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the film lets the audience connect the dots and see the real story unfurling. Anantaram is a perfect testimony to Adoor’s genius.
Satyajit Ray’s film based on a novel by Sunil Gangopadhyaya. Set in Naxalite-hit Kolkata, the film portrays the struggles of a young college graduate who is trying to come to terms with life. The protagonist Siddharth’s brother is a member of the Naxalbari movement. Siddharth is unemployed and lives with his mother and sister in a small, crowded apartment in the city. Several unsuccessful attempts to be employed, a general sense of insecurity and stress turn Siddharth into a schizophrenic. He starts hallucinating. Pratidwandi is an excellent commentary on the tense political atmosphere that existed in Kolkata during the time of Naxalite movement.
15 Park Avenue
This Bengali film, directed by Aparna Sen, has her daughter Konkona Sen Sharma in the lead role and Rahul Bose, Shabana Azmi, Waheeda Rahman and Dhritiman Chatterjee in supporting roles. This film is centred on a young woman named Mitali Roy who, unable to deal with the real world, completely succumbs to schizophrenia. Meethi is a shy, pampered girl who has always been prone to delusions. A horrendous gangrape pushes her mind beyond the lines of sanity and she starts withdrawing from the real world. She imagines that her husband Jojo and kids live in a house at 15, Park Avenue in Kolkata. The address is non-existent and her former-lover (Rahul Bose) whom she imagines as her husband, lives in another city with his wife and kids. In the surrealitic closing scene Meethi is seen walking into a house where she reunites with her kids and Jojo. While in the reality, Jojo and Meethi’s elder sister are seen frantically searching for her.
This 1992 Malayalam movie by Rajeevnath has Mohanlal in the lead role. Mohanlal playes Siddharthan, who turns into a schizophrenic after he kills his wife accidentally. The film follows Sidharthan’s life from his childhood – The strict household he grew up in and the staid, nerdy lifestyle he leads. He gets married to a girl who is an extrovert and full of life. One of their regular marital fights result in a scuffle, in which he pushes her down the staircase, killing her. This incident derails his mind and he starts hallucinating, often resorting to violent acts. The film closes with Siddharthan committing suicide in an asylum.
Talk To Her
This Spanish drama written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar won 2002 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the 2003 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign-Language Film. One of the characters in the film is a male nurse – Benigno – who is desperately in love with a patient whom he attends to – Alicia, a ballet dancer. Alicia is in coma and doesn’t respond to anything, but Benigno hallucinates her talking to him and reciprocating his love. Trouble begins when hospital authorities find out that Benigno has impregnated Alicia. He is arrested on rape charges and sent to jail. Benigno is worried about Alicia and in a desperate attempt to reunite with her, he swallows a handful of pills to slip into coma. However, he dies of overdose.